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Infant Strokes - Virtually Unknown, Top Ten Killer among Newborns

As you age, the chance of suffering a stroke increases. In fact, strokes are the third biggest killer among adults in the United States. Even when they don't kill, strokes can cause paralysis and impede function on one or both sides of the body.

It is a little known fact that strokes are also among the top ten causes of death in infants. According to the American Heart Association, one infant out of every 4,000 live births will suffer a stroke. About 70 percent of newborns who suffer a stroke will survive, though nearly 80 percent of these will have some sort of permanent neurological damage. 

The most common of these is cerebral palsy, and for a new parent, this could mean an additional $43,000 of medical costs during the first year of life.

Pediatric strokes were the topic of discussion in a recent Congressional meeting in Washington, D.C. The Children's Hemiplegia and Stroke Association, along with the American Heart Association, have worked hard to secure more funding for research and education into and around the phenomenon of infant strokes.

While strokes pose a serious risk to newborns, that risk can be mitigated if the stroke is diagnosed early and treated. Rehabilitation and therapy can greatly reduce the possibility of death and future disability.

As with many afflictions, it is diagnosis that is the hard part. Quite simply, parents do not expect a stroke and therefore do not usually investigate it as a possibility. Physicians, also, are not as well-informed as they could be and often miss the signs that an infant has suffered a stroke, which can happen in utero.

According to a recent article in The Seattle Times, neurologists are perhaps the best-informed in terms of infant strokes, but are likely not the first to be consulted when birth injuries are suspected. Therefore, the groups working to increase awareness of this affliction are mostly focused on educating pediatricians, family doctors and parents.

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