Doernbecher Children's Hospital

Pediatric Stroke Program

A doctor puts a hand on a child’s head in a gesture of comfort.

If your child has had a stroke, our Pediatric Stroke Program provides follow-up evaluation, treatment and help with recovery.

We also help children who are at risk of stroke.

We offer:

  • Oregon’s only pediatric stroke program: Your child will get care from doctors who specialize in childhood brain and blood diseases.
  • Specialty care: You’ll have access to more specialists who can tailor treatment to your child, including experts in OHSU’s stroke program. They can help improve recovery and prevent strokes.
  • Access to research: We take part in the International Pediatric Stroke Study and other research studies. We work with pediatric stroke experts outside OHSU.

Understanding pediatric stroke

A stroke happens when blood flow to the brain is reduced or blocked. Not enough blood flow means not enough oxygen. This can damage the brain and/or nervous system.

A stroke can also be caused by bleeding in the brain.

Pediatric strokes are rare. About five in every 100,000 children have strokes each year.

Risk factors

  • Congenital heart defects: A child whose heart is structured differently can be more likely to have blood clots and strokes.
  • Sickle cell disease: In this condition, red blood cells make abnormal forms of a protein called hemoglobin. Children with sickle cell disease are 10 times more likely to have a stroke than other children.
  • Moyamoya disease: This disorder causes blood vessels in the neck (carotid arteries) to become blocked. This hinders blood flow to the brain.
  • Infections: Meningitis, chickenpox and other infectious diseases are linked to higher risk of pediatric stroke.
  • Vascular (blood vessel) injury: Clotting or stroke can sometimes be caused by a fall or accident that damages blood vessels or causes them to swell.

Evaluation and treatment


If you think your child is having a stroke, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital provides 24-hour pediatric emergency care.

Your child may have tests that include:

  • CT scan or MRI, to look for bleeding or other problems in the brain.
  • Angiogram, to check blood vessels and blood flow.
  • Ultrasound of the arteries, to check for narrowing or clots.
  • Echocardiogram or electrocardiogram, to look for heart problems.
  • Electroencephalogram, to check for seizures.
  • Blood tests, to measure clotting ability and check for muscle damage.

Children who are seen at Doernbecher for a stroke stay at least 24 hours in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). This is to check whether:

  • Their blood pressure is stable.
  • Treatments are working.
  • They are having new or worse symptoms.


Children may need medications to:

  • Reduce the risk of another stroke.
  • Reduce the risk of seizure.
  • Help manage underlying conditions.

Options include:

  • Blood thinners: These medications help keep clots from forming or growing. 
  • Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA): This medication helps break up blood clots.

Another treatment option is endovascular treatment, which removes a clot from a blood vessel.

If a medical condition led to the stroke, your child may be given medication or have surgery or other treatment.

Stroke symptoms

If you think your child is having or has had a stroke, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room right away.

Symptoms in newborns and babies:

  • Seizures
  • Being very tired
  • Moving only one side of the body

Symptoms in children:

  • Weakness or numbness on one side of the body
  • Severe and sudden headache, with or without vomiting
  • Sudden dizziness, trouble standing or walking
  • Sudden difficulty speaking or understanding
  • Double vision or loss of side vision
  • Seizures with no history of epilepsy
  • Being very tired

For families

Call 503-346-0640 to:

  • Request an appointment.
  • Get a second opinion.
  • Ask questions.


OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, seventh floor
700 S.W. Campus Drive
Portland, OR 97239

Free parking for patients and visitors

Refer a patient


A stroke typically causes permanent damage to the brain. Sometimes a child may recover completely. Other times a child may have:

  • Thinking delays
  • Problems with senses, such as seeing or hearing
  • Speech or communication problems
  • Behavior challenges
  • Cerebral palsy (difficulty walking or using the arms)


Jenny Wilson, a pediatric neurologist at OHSU, talks with an adult and a child who is sitting on an exam table.
Jenny Wilson, a pediatric neurologist at OHSU, sees children in the Pediatric Stroke Program.

Your child may be referred to our Pediatric Stroke Program after a stroke or if they are at risk of stroke.

Follow-up: Your child may see a:

  • Neurologist (brain specialist).
  • Hematologist (blood specialist).
  • Cardiologist (heart specialist).
  • Specialist in the condition that led to the stroke.

Therapies: A stroke can cause loss of some abilities. Your child will have access to pediatric therapy, including:

  • Physical therapy, for muscle and motor skills.
  • Occupational therapy, for daily activities.
  • Speech-language pathology, for communication, feeding and swallowing.

Behavioral treatment: We can help with:

  • Emotional struggles.
  • New behavioral and academic problems.

Resources: We can connect your family to support groups and other help.

Learn more

Our team

Pediatric neurologist

Pediatric hematologist-oncologist

Rehabilitation specialists

Darrick Stiff