A $4 million research boost, announced by the Federal Government today, promises to change the lives of our littlest stroke survivors.
The funding will be provided to Stroke Foundation for the provision of a world-first study, trialling established time critical adult stroke treatments in babies and children.
Stroke Foundation Clinical Council member and paediatric neurologist Associate Professor Mark Mackay said the research was an exciting and much needed step forward in helping our littlest stroke patients survive, grow and thrive.
“Each year up to 600 Australian children suffer a stroke; one in 20 die and more than half of survivors will experience long-term impairments,” A/Prof Mackay said.
“When a stroke strikes the brain, it kills more than 1.9 million brain cells per minute. Time-critical clotdissolving and retrieval therapies can stop this damage, but currently children do not have access to them.”
Stroke Foundation will partner with the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, paediatric neurologists, emergency physicians, adult stroke specialists, ambulance services and parents to transform the care of children with stroke by dramatically decreasing time to diagnosis and increasing the number of children receiving emergency stroke treatment.
The Australian Paediatric Acute Code Stroke (PACS) study will design, develop and evaluate a national protocol to increase the proportion of children (aged 1 month to 18 years) with stroke that are diagnosed within 4.5 hours of stroke onset. The study will use decision support tools and advanced brain imaging technologies.
Stroke Foundation Chief Executive Officer Sharon McGowan welcomed the announcement saying it would benefit the hundreds of Australian families devastated by childhood stroke every year.
“The PACS study is a world first which will benefit children with stroke for generations to come,” Ms McGowan said.
“The impact of childhood stroke is far reaching. We know families struggle because they simply don’t know what the future holds and how their child’s development may be impacted. The burden of stroke can last a lifetime.
“I am so proud Australia is leading the way on this research, but importantly that parents of children with stroke are key partners in every part of the study. Together, we will change the way stroke is treated in children nationally and internationally,” she said.
Funding for the study was provided by disbursements from the Government’s 10year, $220 million investment to boost research into heart disease and stroke through the Medical Research Future Fund’s (MRFF) Mission for Cardiovascular Health. The need to establish a Mission for Cardiovascular Health was born from the development of the National Action Plan for Heart and Stroke by Stroke Foundation and the National Heart Foundation.
Paediatric and childhood stroke was identified as an area of need in the development of the Action Plan. The Action Plan, funded by the Federal Government, focuses on implementing evidenced based interventions to prevent, treat and support recovery from heart disease and stroke.
The draft Action Plan is currently under consideration by Government.
Childhood stroke statistics
Stroke is among the top ten causes of death in childhood with the highest mortality in the first 12 months of life.
The incidence (number of new cases per year) of childhood stroke is between 2-13 per 100,000 population.
Approximately one third of all cases occur in children less than one year of age.
50-85 percent of survivors of stroke will be left with long term problems which may include seizures, physical disability, speech or learning difficulties.
Childhood stroke survivor Emma Banks, 5
Emma had a stroke in utero, but it was not detected until she was nine months old. Her mum Dee noticed she didn’t use her right hand to eat or reach for objects and didn’t lift her knees to get into a crawling position like other babies her age.
Dee was naturally concerned and started looking for answers. The process would be a long one involving visits to a maternal health nurse, physio, paediatrician and neurosurgeon. Finally, Emma’s stroke was diagnosed and it shook Dee to the core. The life she had imagined for her little girl was now so uncertain – will Emma die? will she walk? will she have emotional intelligence?
But with the love and support of her parents and a team of health professionals, Emma continues to defy the odds. She not only walks, she runs, dances and talks and is looking forward to school next year.