Raising Awareness About Paediatric Stroke: A Curable Yet Overlooked Condition

The awareness of paediatric stroke is alarmingly low, with many people shocked to learn that children can experience strokes, including on the day they are born. Dr. Nirmal Surya, president of the Indian Stroke Association (ISA), highlighted this issue at a press conference following the inauguration of the second national paediatric stroke conclave.

“Stroke is preventable, but globally, paediatric stroke is the sixth leading cause of death in children,” said Dr. Surya. The two-day conclave, organized by the ISA, was inaugurated by Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty, chairman and founder of Narayana Health.

Worse Situation in India

Dr. Surya emphasized that the biggest challenge paediatric neurologists face is the lack of awareness, particularly in India. Misdiagnosis often results in lost critical time, as stroke can often be treated with an injection if the patient is brought in within four and a half hours. Dr. Minal V. Kekatpure, paediatric neurologist at Narayana Health, Bengaluru, and organising secretary of the conclave, stated that paediatric stroke is more common among neonates than older children, with approximately 25 cases per 100,000 neonates compared to 12 cases involving older children.

Dr. Pratibha Singhi, president of the International Child Neurology Association, pointed out that many parents fail to recognize the symptoms of a stroke in their child. Cases have been reported where children were brought in for minor issues, only to discover they had suffered a stroke.

Lack of Awareness

Dr. K.P. Vinayan, Paediatric Neurology Sub Section Chair of the Indian Academy of Neurology, noted that even adults in India often miss the critical treatment window for stroke, leading to increased chances of disability or death. Visiting expert Dr. Maja Steinlin, vice-president of the International Paediatric Stroke Organisation, agreed that awareness is a significant problem worldwide, not just in India.

Dr. Arvind Sharma, secretary of the ISA, stressed that one of the primary reasons for organizing the conclave is to raise awareness. He mentioned that there are currently about 13 accredited primary centers and 30 stroke-ready but not accredited facilities in India, but the country needs at least 1,000 accredited hospitals to adequately address this disorder.

Dr. Vikram Huded, organising chairman of the conclave and interventional neurologist at Narayana Health, Bengaluru, stated that even for adult stroke patients, only 1-2% receive timely treatment, with the statistics being even worse for paediatric stroke. “Understanding of paediatric stroke has advanced a lot, so it is a pity that we are losing out because of lack of awareness,” said Dr. Huded.

The conclave aims to bring more people on board, encourage paediatricians and general practitioners to refer patients to stroke-ready hospitals, and ultimately improve the chances of timely and effective treatment for paediatric stroke patients.

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