Arterial Dissection Causes and Symptoms in Children

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Arterial dissection occurs in about two to three children per 100,000 per year, affecting boys more commonly than girls. It can occur as a result of head or neck trauma (either serious or minor), but sometimes it has no identifiable cause. Certain medical conditions, such as Marfan syndrome, coarctation of the aorta and inflammatory conditions that weaken the blood vessel walls, can make children susceptible to arterial dissection.

In most cases, arterial dissection is diagnosed after a stroke, or during evaluation after head or neck trauma. Many children have neck pain or headache around the time that the dissection occurs, and if a blood clot has formed, the child may have symptoms of a stroke or transient ischemic attack. However, symptoms can vary widely, depending on whether the dissection is the result of trauma, whether it is located in the head and neck versus the brain, and whether it involves the vertebral or carotid artery. Vertebral dissection, for example, can cause speech and swallowing problems.

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