Infections in childhood linked to high risk of ischemic stroke

February 1, 2012

Common infections in children pose a high risk of ischemic stroke, according to research presented at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2012.

In a review of 2.5 million children, the researchers identified 126 childhood ischemic stroke cases and then randomly selected 378 age-matched controls from the remaining children without stroke. They discovered that 29 percent of those who suffered a stroke had a medical encounter for infection in the two days preceding the stroke versus one percent of controls during the same dates.

In the three- to seven-day window, 13 percent of children had an infection compared to 2 percent of controls.

The elevated risk of stroke didn't persist after the first month of infection, researchers said.

"This is the first large study to establish the relationship between infection and stroke in children," said Heather Fullerton, M.D., the study's principal investigator and director of the and Cerebrovascular Disease Center at the University of California in San Francisco.

Researchers analyzed diagnostic and radiologic databases of children enrolled in the Kaiser Permanente healthcare plan from 1993 to 2007. They evaluated medical records and chart reviews for infections during the two years prior to the childhood stroke, and the same time period for the age-matched controls.

The children with stroke ranged from infants to adolescents, average 10.5 years old (oldest child was 19). Researchers identified three stroke-free controls per case. Findings between girls and boys or ethnic groups didn't differ.

Researchers found acute infections are more important in triggering stroke than over time.

"These were predominantly minor and represented a variety of infections, including , and ," Fullerton said. "No particular type of infection predominated."

The study findings hold implications for the secondary prevention of stroke in children, she said.

Most previously healthy children with an ischemic stroke have a disease of the blood vessels to the brain, and these children are at highest risk of recurrent stroke. This study may provide some insight into why children develop this arteriopathy: the inflammatory process that results from an infection which may lead to stroke by causing vascular injury, researchers said.

The standard treatment for ischemic stroke in children is blood thinners. But the study suggests that future research should focus on the potential role for anti-inflammatory medications in preventing the recurrence of stroke in this population.

The incidence of stroke in childhood is about five per 100,000 in the United States each year, Fullerton said.

About half of childhood strokes are hemorrhagic (bleeding in the brain), according to American Heart Association statistics.

"Childhood infections are exceedingly common, while childhood strokes are uncommon," Fullerton said. "Parents should not be alarmed at the findings of this study. We suspect that there are rare genetic factors that may place some at risk for this uncommon effect of common infections."

Infection is an established risk factor for in adults. In the United States, is the fourth leading cause of death and a leading cause of serious disability among adults.

Explore further: Use of clot busters for stroke increased from 2005 to 2009, but still low

Related Stories

Use of clot busters for stroke increased from 2005 to 2009, but still low

June 2, 2011
The use of clot-busting drugs to treat acute ischemic stroke increased from 2005 through 2009 — but is still low, according to research reported in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Cholesterol-lowering drugs may help prevent recurrent strokes in younger people

August 1, 2011
New research indicates cholesterol lowering drugs known as statins may help prevent future strokes among young people who have already had a stroke. The study is published in the August 2, 2011, print issue of Neurology, ...

Recommended for you

Could aggressive blood pressure treatments lead to kidney damage?

July 18, 2017
Aggressive combination treatments for high blood pressure that are intended to protect the kidneys may actually be damaging the organs, new research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine suggests.

Quantifying effectiveness of treatment for irregular heartbeat

July 17, 2017
In a small proof-of-concept study, researchers at Johns Hopkins report a complex mathematical method to measure electrical communications within the heart can successfully predict the effectiveness of catheter ablation, the ...

Concerns over side effects of statins stopping stroke survivors taking medication

July 17, 2017
Negative media coverage of the side effects associated with taking statins, and patients' own experiences of taking the drugs, are among the reasons cited by stroke survivors and their carers for stopping taking potentially ...

Study discovers anticoagulant drugs are being prescribed against safety advice

July 17, 2017
A study by researchers at the University of Birmingham has shown that GPs are prescribing anticoagulants to patients with an irregular heartbeat against official safety advice.

Protein may protect against heart attack

July 14, 2017
DDK3 could be used as a new therapy to stop the build-up of fatty material inside the arteries

Heart study finds faulty link between biomarkers and clinical outcomes

July 14, 2017
Surrogate endpoints (biomarkers), which are routinely used in clinical research to test new drugs, should not be trusted as the ultimate measure to approve new health interventions in cardiovascular medicine, according to ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.