Neonatal Stroke | Symptoms & Causes

What are the symptoms of neonatal stroke?

The most common symptom of neonatal stroke is seizures, often occurring as early as the first day after birth. Other signs and symptoms of neonatal stroke include:

  • extreme sleepiness and lethargy (hypotonia)
  • weakness on one side of the body (hemiparesis)
  • feeding difficulties
  • apnea (periods where breathing stops temporarily)
  • neurological impairment

However, many babies don't show any noticeable symptoms of a stroke until they are older. Speech delays and balance difficulties can be signs that a child had a stroke as a newborn.

What causes neonatal stroke?

The most common type of neonatal stroke, arterial ischemic stroke, occurs when a blood clot or structural abnormality (such as moyamoya disease or other cerebral arteriopathies) obstructs blood flow within a baby's brain or spinal cord.

A hemorrhagic stroke is the result of bleeding in the brain. Common causes of hemorrhagic stroke include blood-vessel abnormalities, such as cavernous malformations, arteriovenous malformations, venous angioma and aneurysm. Clotting disorders such as hemophilia, sickle cell disease, brain tumors and congenital heart disease can also cause bleeds that lead to hemorrhagic stroke.

Other conditions are also associated with an increased risk of neonatal stroke. These include:

  • sickle cell disease
  • cardiac disorders
  • genetic conditions that increase blood clotting