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CU Gets Grant to Study Pediatric Strokes

Photo Courtesy of The Denver Post
Photo Courtesy of The Denver Post


Doctors at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus are beginning a research effort — which probably will include Trevor as a subject — to study the effects of strokes on children. A $2.5 million grant will fund the research.

They will try to determine brain mechanics, as well as improve the protection and repair of brain tissue, in children who suffer a stroke. Also, they will train new pediatric stroke doctors.

Experts from seven departments on campus — anesthesiology, biostatistics, cell-development biology, neurology, pediatrics, pharmacology and radiology — are part of the research team.

Understanding strokes in young children

It's much more difficult to figure out why children get a stroke than adults, as well as how to treat them, said Dr. Tim Bernard, who has treated Trevor and is one of the seven members on the research team.

He said younger children typically do not have high blood pressure, heart disease or hardening of the arteries — symptoms that can lead to strokes in adults.

"We have to understand why they're having a stroke to treat them better," Bernard said. "A lot of times it's a healthy kid like Trevor.

"The grant gives us the opportunity to explore in detail the outcomes of strokes in kids and what kind of quality of life did they end up having."

Focus on ischemic strokes

This research effort is looking at one type of stroke in kids, ischemic stroke, said Dan Meyers, spokesman for the Anschutz campus.

An ischemic stroke, which Trevor suffered, is caused by a clot that cuts off blood to the brain.

CU is one of three universities selected to be a center for the American Stroke Association, but the school is the only one focusing on pediatric strokes in the program, which is funded through the Bugher Foundation.

"Strokes in children can have devastating lifelong consequences, and there is much to be learned in this area," said Dr. Richard Traystman, vice chancellor for research at the Anschutz campus and part of the new research team.

Children's Hospital Colorado sees about 20 pediatric stroke cases annually and is following about 100 patients. Stroke strikes about six of every 100,000 children in the country, according to the National Stroke Association.

Part of CU's research effort will focus on restoring function to injured brains and restoring brain plasticity as people grow older. The fact that Trevor's brain was still developing probably saved his life. An adult who suffers a similar stroke would have a much more difficult time recovering and is more likely to die, Bernard said.

Trevor's bravery

Trevor's parents believe his artery tore while he was playing on a trampoline at a neighbor's house.

He would then experience a couple of seizures and several smaller strokes. After these strokes, doctors tried treating Trevor with aspirin and heparin to prevent, or at least reduce, blood clots.

But it wasn't until Trevor was brought in with the near-fatal stroke that they realized that an artery tear in his neck was sending clots to the brain.

Doctors closed the artery, leaving him with three in the neck, instead of the normal four. Trevor has not had a stroke since.

He likes to swim and says physical education is his favorite class, where he's known to have the "fastest hands in the West." He can do almost anything, although sometimes when he hikes he has to tilt his head to one side. Also, he occasionally walks off curbs because of limited peripheral vision.

But his parents are just glad their son is able to lead a normal life.

Said his mother, Brooke: "He really is a total miracle kid."

 Listen to Colorado Public Radio's story about the grant.