Australia’s first guidelines for child stroke sufferers

Published: 07 December 2017


Time is of the essence after a victim suffers a stroke, but according to new data, some of Australia’s youngest stroke sufferers are not receiving time-crucial treatment.

In an Australian first, clinical guidelines have been released by the Royal Children’s Hospital and Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne, aimed at improving and speeding up the diagnosis of stroke and the medical management of child victims, to minimise brain injury and improve recovery.

Approximately 300 babies and children are diagnosed with stroke every year across Australia, and more than half of survivors are left with long-term disabilities.

The causes of stroke in children differ from the causes of stroke in adults, and doctors say the care pathways set up for patients need to be modified for children. Currently, some child stroke sufferers wait more than a day for diagnosis.

Paediatric Neurologist, Director of the Royal Children’s Stroke Program and researcher with the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute Associate Professor Mark Mackay believes the guidelines will help improve community awareness of stroke in children.

“The guideline aims to facilitate better standards of care across Australian paediatric hospitals for childhood stroke, reduce the time to diagnose stroke and ensure all children are provided with the same high-quality evidence-based care,” he said.

“The guidelines have helped us identify key research questions and develop a national collaborative network.

“We hope that setting a national research agenda will help us attract much-needed funding to improve our knowledge of the best approach to treating Australia’s youngest stroke suffers.”

Key recommendations include recognising presenting symptoms that require investigation for stroke, and the importance of urgent MRI using child-specific imaging protocols for an accurate stroke diagnosis.

The guidelines detailed the requirements for hospitals to qualify as a Primary Paediatric Stroke Centre, and included how to accurately manage symptoms of stroke and identify children eligible for treatment or who require surgical intervention.

More than 60 recommendations were made to assist emergency staff and paediatricians in diagnosing and managing children with stroke upon arrival at a hospital.

The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute’s Dr Tanya Medley says a consistent approach to treatment will guarantee all children are treated to the highest possible standard.

“We believe that implementing a standardised approach to diagnosis and management will ensure children are not being left behind in the advances in stroke care which have transformed outcomes for adults,” Dr Tanya Medley said.

The guidelines are to be published in the International Journal of Stroke.