Children do suffer strokes; though treatable, lack of awareness can put their lives at risk: Experts, ET HealthWorld

Children do suffer strokes; though treatable, lack of awareness can put their lives at risk: Experts, ET HealthWorld


Bengaluru: Awareness about stroke in children is very low and people are often shocked to hear that children can have a stroke. Actors like Amitabh Bachchan need to talk about it to create awareness, said Dr Nirmal Surya, president of the Indian Stroke Association (ISA) on Saturday. Speaking at a press conference after inaugurating the second National Paediatric Stroke Conference, he said, “Stroke is preventable, but globally paediatric stroke is the sixth leading cause of death in children.”

The two-day conference organised by ISA was inaugurated by Dr Devi Prasad Shetty, Chairman and Founder, Narayana Health.

According to Dr. Surya, lack of awareness is the biggest challenge that pediatric neurologists around the world have to deal with.

“The situation is even worse in India. When people are not made aware of the possibility of stroke in children, time is lost due to misdiagnosis. Time is of the essence because if the patient is brought within four and a half hours, the stroke can often be treated with an injection,” he said.

Dr. Meenal V. Kekatpure, Pediatric Neurologist at Narayana Health, Bengaluru, and organising secretary of the conference, reiterated that stroke can occur even on the first day of birth.

According to him, in fact, pediatric stroke is more common in newborns than in older children.

“Out of one lakh, about 25 cases are of newborns, while 12 are of older children,” Kekatpure said.

Dr. Pratibha Singhi, President of the International Child Neurology Association, said that often parents do not know that the child is suffering from a stroke.

“We have had cases where parents brought their child seeking treatment for being 'not very good at writing' and upon examination, we found that the child had actually suffered a stroke and is unable to move his hand properly,” Singhi said.

According to Dr K P Vinayan, chairman of the Pediatric Neurology Sub-section of the Indian Academy of Neurology, adults suffering from stroke in India also often miss the opportunity for treatment, and the risk of disability and death increases.

He said, “There is a lot of lack of awareness regarding stroke. This needs to be corrected first.”

Dr. Maja Steinlin, an expert from Bern and Vice President of the International Pediatric Stroke Organization, also agreed with the Indian doctors that there is a complete lack of awareness among the public.

“Even in Western countries, awareness is a big problem,” he said, adding that India is lagging behind not because it does not have qualified people to treat stroke, but because people are not seeking timely treatment.

ISA Secretary Dr. Arvind Sharma said that the biggest objective of organizing this conference is to create awareness.

“We try to involve as many people as possible, asking paediatricians and even general physicians to refer patients to stroke-ready hospitals if they show certain symptoms,” Dr Sharma said.

He also said that in India there are about 13 accredited primary centres equipped to deal with stroke, and about 30 centres that are equipped for stroke but are not accredited.

“We need at least 1,000 accredited hospitals to tackle this disorder in India,” Sharma said.

According to Dr Vikram Hooded, Interventional Neurologist at Narayana Health, Bengaluru, and organising chairman of the conference, even in adult stroke cases, only 1 to 2 per cent of patients receive timely treatment, and the figure is even worse in case of paediatric stroke.

“The understanding of pediatric stroke has come a long way, but it’s sad that we are lagging behind due to a lack of awareness,” Hooded said.

The conference will bring together experts from around the world to raise awareness as well as share knowledge on ways to collaborate for infrastructure.

Dr Surya said, “For example, in the United States and Canada there are apps that people can use to get immediate help. Pediatric neurologists across the country are connected through this app and help each other. Such facilities in India will greatly improve the chances of stroke patients.”

Agreeing that the number of paediatric neurologists in India is not high, he stressed that the biggest problem at present is that there are not enough patients to avail the existing facilities.

“We should be doing 2.5 lakh thrombosis screenings a year, but we are only able to do 2,000 to 3,000. This is a huge gap that needs to be filled,” Dr Sharma said.

Dr Surya said, “If you ask me I would say awareness is what we need most.”

  • Published on June 30, 2024 05:06 PM IST

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