Cover Story

Caring for Kids: St. Louis Children’s Hospital

Many people know that a stroke can occur when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures or is blocked. But perhaps it’s less well-known that the condition doesn’t only affect adults. Washington University pediatric neurologist and critical care physician Dr. Kristin Guilliams of St. Louis Children’s Hospital says kids can experience a stroke at any age. “More than 4,000 pediatric strokes happen in the U.S. each year,” she says. “They actually are more common than brain tumors in children.”

Young stroke patients tend to have the same symptoms as adults, including confusion, difficulty speaking, drooping facial muscles and limb weakness; kids also may experience seizures, according to Guilliams. St. Louis Children’s Hospital provides timely, personalized care for patients with this life-threatening condition. “We have a team of pediatric neurologists who can immediately evaluate when a stroke is suspected,” she notes. “MRI and CT scans can tell us if a major vessel is blocked and what part of the brain is affected.” Doctors then can decide on therapies to combat blood clots and other issues that cause strokes. They may partner with Barnes-Jewish Hospital physicians to perform procedures like emergency clot retrieval.

The hospital’s commitment to pediatric stroke care can be summed up in the case of 6-year-old Stacey, a recent patient. She was diagnosed with Moyamoya disease, a rare condition that causes narrowing or blockage of an artery at the base of the brain. Tiny new vessels form as a result but are unable to supply the brain with enough oxygen. Stacey originally had been treated at an out-of-state hospital but was referred to Children’s after experiencing strokes. Moyamoya disease can be treated with revascularization therapy, a surgery that creates alternate paths for blood to reach the brain. Stacey had the procedure and is doing well, Guilliams reports. “We are specially equipped to handle challenging cases like this and help patients recover,” she notes. Since St. Louis Children’s Hospital is physically connected to Barnes-Jewish Hospital, other Washington University physicians are available to consult, and pediatric nurses specially trained in stroke care are on staff as well. “Barnes-Jewish and Children’s are national leaders in this field,” Guilliams says. “It’s great to have so many resources at hand.”

She adds that Children’s has a highly skilled neurorehabilitation team to deliver physical therapy following a stroke, and a followup clinic provides other important care. “We can assess things like sleep, headaches, mental and emotional health, and any other issues patients may have,” Guilliams says. “This helps them feel supported so they can return to their regular activities as quickly as possible.” There are plenty of resources to assist families of young patients, too.

“It takes a specialized team of experts to help pediatric stroke patients,” Guilliams says. “State-of-the-art resources and compassionate care make St. Louis Children’s Hospital one of the best places in the Midwest to treat them.”

St. Louis Children’s Hospital provides complete, personalized care for pediatric stroke patients. Pictured on the cover: Patient Stacey, center, with Dr. Kristin Guilliams, Dr. Rejean Guerriero and Dr. Jennifer Strahle. For more information, call 314.454.5437 or visit stlouischildrens.org.

Cover design by Julie Streiler
Cover photo by Bill Barrett

Pictured above: Stacey, a patient, with Dr. Kristin Guilliams.

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