The role of imaging studies for evaluation of stroke in children

Adriana Yock-Corrales, Peter Barnett
Pediatric Emergency Care 2011, 27 (10): 966-74; quiz 975-7
Stroke is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in children and long-term neurological deficits. Although cerebrovascular disorders occur less often in children than in adults, recognition of stroke in children has probably increased because of the widespread application of noninvasive diagnostic studies such as magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography.Computed tomography (CT) should be the first imaging choice in the emergency setting when stroke is suspected. It will show the presence of hemorrhage (eg, bleeding from arteriovenous malformation). It is often normal within the first hours in arterial ischemic stroke. As in adults, magnetic resonance imaging is the neuroimaging modality to confirm the clinical diagnosis of ischemic stroke. In children, however, magnetic resonance imaging requires sedation and may not be as readily available as CT. Perfusion imaging demonstrates flow within the brain and can detect areas that are at risk of ischemia; however, further studies in the pediatric population need to be validated for this technique in children. Angiography detects arterial disease (eg, aneurysm); however, its use has been largely superseded by better magnetic resonance angiography, which is sensitive enough to visualize lesions in the proximal anterior cerebral artery, middle cerebral artery, and distal internal carotid artery (ICA). Magnetic resonance imaging using diffusion- weighted imaging is the most versatile and sensitive imaging technique for identifying ischemic lesions. In the future, we need to identify the pediatric patient presenting to the emergency department with an acute stroke and develop a pathway for the use of particular imaging techniques (eg, CT vs magnetic resonance imaging).

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