Childhood Infections Linked to Stroke Risk

Stroke risk heightened after infections during childhood

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Minor infections during childhood could have more devastating consequences. Common infections could put kids at a higher risk of stroke during the initial month following an infection.

Researchers found that 29 percent of children who suffered an ischemic stroke had received treatment for an infection within two days of suffering the stroke compared to only 1 percent of age-matched children who did not have a stroke.

"Make an appointment with a pediatrician if you suspect your child has an infection."

Dr. Heather Fullerton, the study’s principal investigator and director of the Pediatric Stroke and Cerebrovascular Disease Center at the University of California, noted that the research marked the first large-scale study to establish the link between infection and stroke in children. Though the children included in the study had suffered a wide range of infections, most were acute minor infections such as upper respiratory infections, urinary tract infections and ear infections.

During the study investigators analyzed the diagnostic and radiologic records of 2.5 million children enrolled in the Kaiser Permanente healthcare plan between 1993 and 2007. They reviewed medical records for infections for the two-year period prior to the stroke, as well as the same period for age-matched controls.

They identified 126 childhood ischemic stroke cases that were compared to 378 randomly selected age-matched children that did not have a stroke, allowing for three controls for each child that experienced a stroke. Children who suffered a stroke ranged from infants through age 19, with an average age of 10 and a half.

They found that in addition to the heightened stroke risk within two days of an infection, children who suffered from an infection remained at a 13 percent risk of stroke between three and seven days later compared to a 2 percent risk among the control group. The heightened stroke risk lasted only during the initial month after an infection.

Interestingly, investigators found that one-time acute infections were more important in triggering stroke than chronic lingering infections. Infection already is an established stroke risk factor for adults.

Researchers said the findings could aid in preventing childhood strokes. Children for suffer a stroke are usually treated with blood thinners, though the study suggests anti-inflammatory medication could prevent recurrence of a stroke among children.

Dr. Fullerton noted that while the findings are significant, it should not spark added concern from parents.

“Childhood infections are exceedingly common, while childhood strokes are uncommon,” Dr. 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 children at risk for this uncommon effect of common infections.”

The study, funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, was presented Wednesday at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2012 in New Orleans.

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Review Date: 
February 1, 2012
Last Updated:
February 1, 2012