Neonatal Stroke

Neonatal stroke is a rare condition. Interruption of blood flow to the brain in newborns or infants resulting in injury or death of brain cells is neonatal stroke. The blockage of blood flow may be because of a break in blood vessels or the formation of a blood clot. A stroke can also lead to bleeding inside the brain. Early treatment can help children with neonatal stroke.

What are the common symptoms of a Neonatal Stroke?

Infants may not present any signs or symptoms of a stroke. The symptoms may appear months or years in the later stage of life.

Signs of stroke in adults and young children are common:

  • Sudden and unexplained weakness
  • One-sided seizures
  • Lack of balance or coordination
  • Sudden and severe headache
  • Blurry vision 
  • Inability to speak clearly

The symptoms of stroke in young children are vague. Excessive vomiting, unclear speech, or abnormal drowsiness are non-specific symptoms. One must report these differences in the child's health to a doctor for more investigations.  

What are the causes of Neonatal Stroke?

It may not be simple to detect the cause of a neonatal stroke because of diverse risk factors. Doctors may attribute neonatal strokes to the following reasons:

  • Insufficient supply of oxygen to the brain during childbirth
  • Moyamoya, a genetic condition affecting brain arteries
  • Damage to the artery supplying blood to the brain
  • Dehydration
  • Congenital heart defect
  • Conditions of blood like sickle cell causing damage to blood cells and blood vessel blockage

Strokes because of blockage of blood vessels in the brain can occur because of trauma, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, or cardiac disorder. Malformation of arteries in the brain may lead to rupturing of the artery, causing bleeding in the brain or hemorrhagic stroke.

When to see a doctor for treatment of Neonatal Stroke?

Look for some critical signs like a first-time seizure since it is the main sign that the older child had a stroke earlier. Children with neonatal stroke may have sudden one-sided weakness or paralytic attack. The child may have problems concentrating, remembering, or speaking. Consider calling a doctor if the child experiences:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Problems with schooling
  • A feeling of tightness in the legs or arms
  • Vomiting and headache

What are the risk factors for Neonatal Stroke?

Full-term babies and newborns may be at higher risk of stroke because of trauma or congenital diseases. They may have an ischemic stroke if the mother has specific problems during her pregnancy.

These are:

  • Breaking of water before the start of the labour 
  • High blood pressure during pregnancy (preeclampsia)
  • Substance abuse
  • Diabetes
  • Placental issues affecting oxygen supply to the fetus

Improper development of blood vessels in the brain, clotting conditions like haemophilia, or weak arterial walls may increase the risk of hemorrhagic stroke in newborns or infants.

What are treatment options for Neonatal Stroke?

Doctors consider several factors to treat neonatal stroke:

  • Signs and symptoms
  • Age of the child
  • Existing conditions responsible for stroke
  • The extent of tissue damage in the brain
  • The affected area in the brain 

The main aim of treating neonatal stroke is to improve and restore blood flow to the affected area in the brain. Doctors may combine the following treatment options:

  • Interventional neuro-radiology - It involves introducing a catheter into the brain from an arm or leg to repair weak or damaged blood vessels. The procedure is also helpful for removing blood clots. 
  • Medication: Using blood-thinning medicines and special proteins to improve blood flow. Doctors use medication to control seizures if the baby is having seizures. 
  • Surgery- Surgery to remove bone fragments may be necessary to treat severe swelling in the blood. Surgery can also help close abnormal blood vessels or reroute the blood vessels to improve blood supply. 

The treatment may involve physiotherapy to improve functional abilities. Consult a pediatrician to discuss treatment options.


Children with neonatal stroke have a better prospect of recovery than adults, as the child's brain develops. Early diagnosis and treatment offer better chances of recovery and prevent long-term damage to the brain.

Request an appointment at Apollo Cradle, Amritsar - Abadi Court Road. Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment.

1. What are the tests to diagnose neonatal stroke?

Doctors may recommend imaging tests to detect neonatal stroke besides blood tests. These tests are Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), CT scans, lumbar punctures, and MRI of specific veins or arteries.

2. What is the average recovery time after treatment for neonatal stroke?

The normal recovery of functions may require two to three months. The quality of recovery is superior in children than in adults, as a child's brain is in a growing stage. The extent of brain damage influences the recovery period.

3. What therapies apart from medical treatment help in the treatment of neonatal stroke?

Rehabilitation treatment aims to restore loss of movement and should begin soon after the standard medical treatment for neonatal stroke. These treatments also include speech, cognitive, and occupational therapies to improve quality of life.

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