Early diagnosis of stroke is important for many reasons, including to prevent a second stroke — which is a higher risk for children — and to start a treatment program for recovery. If you think your child has suffered from a stroke, contact your child's doctor immediately for a diagnosis.

In most cases, your child's pediatrician will refer you to a neurologist, a board-certified doctor who specializes in nervous system disorders. The neurologist will perform a thorough physical examination of your child to determine if he or she has had a stroke. If so, the doctor will locate the affected blood vessel and determine the cause of the stroke.

Your child's examination may include:

Imaging tests may include:

  • Arteriography — This shows arteries in the brain that can't be seen in regular X-rays. It may be performed if other tests don't reveal the cause of the stroke. The doctor will make a small incision, usually in the patient's groin, then insert a catheter, which is a flexible, thin tube, carefully through the arteries and into the carotid or vertebral artery. The doctor will then inject a dye into the catheter that helps the patient's cranial arteries appear more clearly in an X-ray image.
  • Computed Tomography (CT) Scan — This test uses X-ray beams to create a 3-dimensional image of the brain.
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA) — This procedure uses a strong magnetic field to show the arteries in the neck and brain.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) — Using a strong magnetic field, a MRI can generate a three-dimensional image of the brain. A MRI is often used to locate an area of the brain that's been damaged by an ischemic stroke.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers

Pediatric Brain Center

Stroke & Cerebrovascular Disease Center
1825 Fourth St., Fifth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-7596
Fax: (415) 353-2400
Appointment information

Neuro-Intensive Care Nursery (NICN)
1975 Fourth St., Third Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-1565
Fax: (415) 353-1202

Patient Experiences