Winter 2006

UCSF Starts Pediatric Stroke Center

Sensing a need in the clinical world for better stroke care among children, UCSF physicians are establishing a clinical pediatric stroke program, one of the few in the nation.

"There are very few medical centers focused on cerebrovascular disease in children and there are not many child neurologists who are interested in cerebrovascular disease or who have gotten stroke training," says Heather Fullerton, M.D., who heads up the program.

The program pulls together the impressive intellectual resources that already exist at UCSF Medical Center. Neurologists Fullerton and Yvonne Wu, M.D., have great experience in treating neonatal and pediatric stroke. Interventional radiologists Christopher Dowd, M.D., Van Halbach, M.D., and Randall Higashida, M.D., have long been leaders in the field of treating infants with vascular malformations.

Pediatric neurosurgeon Nalin Gupta, M.D., Ph.D., and adult neurosurgeon Michael Lawton, M.D., contribute their vast experience with stroke. Radiologist James Barkovich, M.D., and Donna Ferriero, M.D., chief of Child Neurology, contribute a strong research and clinical base to the field.

"The pieces have been in place, but we are now pulling them all together as a cohesive center," Fullerton says.

Stroke among children and teenagers is rare. "Kids shouldn't have stroke, but they do for various reasons," says Dowd. "Kids are the most poignant cases because they are generally young, healthy people with long lives ahead of them and the results of stroke can be crippling or deadly." Because most physicians are not trained to expect stroke in children, the correct diagnosis may be missed or delayed, the physicians say.

Stroke is more common in the perinatal environment, especially among premature infants. UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital has made large strides in acquiring a basic understanding of the dynamics of perinatal stroke and its repercussions. UCSF researchers worked with General Electric to develop a specialized, MRI-compatible incubator, so that newborns could comfortably and safely be scanned in an MRI machine. Other researchers are looking at how the brain is injured during stroke and learning how to use that information to predict long-term outcome.

For more information, contact Dr. Heather Fullerton at (415) 353-2525.

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