Neonatal Stroke

Neonatal stroke is a serious medical condition in newborns that can cause long-term physical and cognitive disabilities. It occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is disrupted or reduced, damaging the brain cells. Early diagnosis and treatment are important to minimise the risk of permanent neurological damage. There is no single cause for neonatal stroke; it may be caused by maternal factors, birth trauma haemorrhage, or infections during pregnancy. Awareness and understanding of this condition are crucial for effective management.

What is a neonatal stroke?

A neonatal stroke is a form of stroke that occurs in newborn babies. It happens when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted, either by a clot or bleeding from a damaged artery. The effects of neonatal stroke vary depending on which part of the brain it affects and how long before treatment is started. Symptoms may include seizures, difficulty breathing, paralysis, developmental delays, and learning disabilities. Treatment typically involves medication, physical therapy, and speech therapy to help the baby cope with any disability caused by the stroke.

What are the causes of neonatal stroke?

  • A neonatal stroke is caused by a disruption of blood flow to the brain.
  • The disruption can be due to a clot blocking an artery (thrombotic stroke) or a bleed in the brain (haemorrhagic stroke).
  • The underlying cause of this disruption may be genetic, such as an inherited thrombophilia disorder.
  • Pre-existing conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and maternal infections can also lead to neonatal stroke.
  • In some cases, no definite cause is found for neonatal stroke.
  • Neonatal stroke can also occur during labour and delivery due to a lack of oxygen supply to the baby's brain.

What are the symptoms of a neonatal stroke?

  • Neonatal stroke can cause a variety of symptoms, including:
    • Seizures
    • Difficulty feeding
    • Excessive sleepiness
    • Irritability
    • Poor muscle tone
    • Stiff limbs or neck
    • Weak or absent reflexes
  • Other signs may appear on imaging scans like an MRI or CT, including:
    • Areas of brain damage, especially in the basal ganglia
    • White matter abnormalities
    • Hydrocephalus

When should one see a doctor for a neonatal stroke?

If a newborn baby has any symptoms of a neonatal stroke, it is important to seek medical help immediately. These signs may include seizures, difficulty feeding, weakness on one side of the body or face, a lack of muscle tone, or facial drooping. In more severe cases, babies may suffer from breathing problems or an inability to move one side of the body. If any of these symptoms are present, parents should take their baby to see a doctor as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment can ensure that long-term effects are minimised or avoided altogether.

What are the risk factors for neonatal stroke?

Neonatal stroke can be caused by various risk factors, including:

  • Maternal health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, or preeclampsia
  • Preterm birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Placental insufficiency
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Abnormal coagulation test results
  • Bacterial infections
  • Genetic mutations
  • Delivery method and environment


Neonatal stroke is a serious condition that can have long-term consequences for an infant. It is important to recognise the symptoms of neonatal stroke and to seek medical attention as soon as possible to ensure the best outcome for the infant. With early diagnosis and appropriate treatment, neonatal stroke can be managed effectively, reducing the risk of long-term complications. Parents must be aware of the symptoms and risks associated with neonatal stroke to ensure their infant receives quick and appropriate care.

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1. What neurological effects can result from a neonatal stroke?

Neonatal stroke can cause impairments in motor control, language development, and visual-spatial skills. It may also lead to seizures or difficulties with attention or behaviour.

2. What diagnostic methods are used to detect a neonatal stroke?

The diagnosis of a neonatal stroke may involve imaging tests such as an MRI or CT scan, an EEG to detect seizure activity or abnormal brain waves, and blood tests to rule out infection or inflammation.

3. How is a neonatal stroke treated?

Treatment of a neonatal stroke typically involves managing associated medical conditions such as seizures, controlling symptoms through physical therapy and occupational therapy, and providing supportive care such as nutritional support. In some cases, medication may be prescribed to reduce swelling in the brain.

4. Are there any preventative measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of neonatal stroke?

While there is no guarantee that a neonatal stroke can be prevented completely, pregnant women need to receive regular prenatal care from a healthcare provider to identify any potential health issues that could increase the risk of a baby experiencing a neonatal stroke.

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