Children's Emergency Department is now located in Children's Tower: 1001 E. Marshall Street.

Learn more
View alerts close

Pediatric stroke: Know how to act fast and seek expert help

A stroke happens when a blockage or a rupture of a blood vessel in the brain prevents normal flow of oxygen to the brain. Strokes typically happen to older people, like grandparents – but they can also happen to children. Stroke is an emergency at any age! 

While strokes are not common in children, they are still one of the top 10 leading causes of death in kids.

Strokes can be life-threatening, but our team is prepared. We are home to the only pediatric stroke protocol in the region, allowing our pediatric experts to identify and treat the stroke when seconds matter most.

If you think your child is experiencing a stroke call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

How to recognize the signs of a stroke

It's important to know that signs of a stroke in kids are different than signs in adults.

Common stroke signs and symptoms include:

  • One-sided weakness or numbness (face, arm or leg)
  • Slurred speech
  • Sudden confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding others
  • Difficulties with balance and coordination
  • Sudden loss of vision or double vision

Less common symptoms include: 

  • Severe sudden headache, especially with vomiting and sleepiness
  • Seizure in someone who doesn't have a seizure disorder, usually on one side of the body

Stroke symptoms in neonates (infants less than one-month-old) include:

  • Seizures – one-sided rhythmic movements/twitching that doesn't stop when you touch them
  • Developmental delays
  • Decreased movement or weakness, usually on one side 

Is my child at risk for a stroke?

Lack of awareness that strokes can happen to children can often delay diagnosis. Know the signs of a stroke and when to call 911. 

While the cause of a stroke isn't always determined, risk factors for kids can include: 

  • Congenital heart disease
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Blood clotting disorders
  • Problems with blood vessels supplying the brain
  • Infection

Often, risk factors are unknown.  

Types of strokes

Strokes in childhood, especially newborns, are being increasingly recognized today. Common types of pediatric strokes include:

  • Hemorrhagic stroke: This happens when a blood vessel in or near the brain bursts, which causes bleeding in the brain.
  • Ischemic stroke: An ischemic stroke occurs when the blood flow to the brain is not strong, Usually, this is because of a clot in one of the blood vessels in your child's brain.
  • Arterial ischemic stroke: This stroke occurs when there is a clot in an artery in the brain.
  • Sinovenous thrombosis stroke: This stroke occurs when there is a clot in one of the veins in the brain. Cerebral venous thrombosis (CVT) — CVT is a stroke that results from thrombosis (a blood clot) in an important part of your brain (dural venous sinuses) which drains blood.

When seconds matter most, choose the experts at CHoR

Our team is experienced in the art and science of caring for those suffering from a pediatric stroke. Our pediatric stroke protocol launches a team into place within minutes when a stroke alert is activated. 

CHoR is an integral part of VCU Health's certified Comprehensive Stroke Center, the first in the Commonwealth, staffed 24/7 by board-certified neurologists, neurosurgeons and pediatric intensivists.

Our center offers 24/7 access to life-saving stroke care, including surgery and other advanced procedures like mechanical clot retrieval (thrombectomy) performed by specially-trained endovascular neurosurgeons.

Thriving after a stroke

The full team is here to care for your child. Our rehab team includes specialists in physical medicine and rehabilitation, physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. Our goals after stroke are to decrease balance and visual issues; re-teach skills like speech and concentration; eliminate pain; and increase motor control and function.

Therapy services are offered at six convenient locations in central Virginia, Fredericksburg and Stafford.

External stroke resources


View all locations

Meet the team

View all providers
Michele L Ellett, MSN, RN, CPNP
Michele Ellett MSN, RN, CPNP Neurosurgery Read more
Amy D Harper, MD
Amy Harper MD Neurology
Neuromuscular clinic
Read more
Debra K Hearington, PNP
Debra Hearington PNP Neurology Read more
David J Jaffe, MD
David Jaffe MD Neurology Read more
Chad Johnson, PhD
Chad Johnson PhD Neurology
Read more
Paul F. Koch, MD
Paul Koch MD Neurosurgery Read more
Jessica Lane, MD
Jessica Lane MD Neurosurgery
Spina Bifida Clinic
Craniofacial care
Cerebral Palsy Clinic
Read more
Lawrence Morton, MD
Lawrence Morton MD Neurology
Neurofibromatosis program
Read more
Reza Nabizadeh, MD
Reza Nabizadeh MD Neurology Read more
Lauren Doyle Strauss, DO
Lauren Strauss DO Neurology
Headache medicine
Read more

Hunter's story

All things considered, thankful is an understatement.