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How will my child’s stroke be diagnosed?

If your child is displaying stroke like symptoms you should dial 999 immediately. At the hospital, your child should see a consultant paediatrician, neurosurgeon or paediatric neurologist. A brain scan should take place as soon as possible to confirm whether your child has had a stroke. The scan will show the affected area of the brain and the blood vessels in the brain. It is preferable to use an MRI scan as it shows a more detailed image of the brain. This usually lasts an hour and requires your child to lie still whilst the machine takes a picture of their brain. Your child may be given a sedative to help them keep still. If an MRI scan is not available then a CT scan is a good alternative.

If your child is very sleepy and the doctors are concerned about their level of consciousness, they will have an urgent brain scan. In some cases, doctors will undertake neurosurgery to help ease pressure building up in the brain.

Because there are many risk factors associated with childhood stroke, the doctor may carry out a number of tests to help identify the cause. Your child’s medical history may also provide clues as to the cause of the stroke, i.e. if they have SCD.

Blood tests might be taken to check for any infections, chemical problems or blood clotting disorders that may have caused the stroke. If an infection is suspected, your child might have a lumbar puncture. This procedure removes a sample of cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.

Your child may have an echocardiogram to help determine if there are any problems with their heart. This scan works by using ultrasound and it looks at the structure of the heart.

An angiogram test can help reveal a burst vessel, a tear or blockage in a blood vessel in the brain. Dye is injected into an artery using a fine tube and then an x-ray machine is used to take pictures of the blood vessels in the brain.