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Children's Health: Iron deficiency linked to stroke in young children

Toronto doctors find that more than half of their unexplained stroke cases may be related to anemia

Canadian researchers have found that previously healthy children who had strokes were nine times more likely to have iron deficiency anemia than children who didn’t have a stroke.

Iron deficiency anemia is a decrease in the number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells caused by a shortage of iron. Doctors at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto checked for the condition in 17 previously healthy children, ages 12 to 38 months, who were taken to the hospital with an ischemic stroke, a blockage in the blood supply to the brain.

Fifty-three per cent of these children had iron deficiency anemia, compared with only nine per cent of a group of 143 children who had not suffered a stroke.

“Children with iron deficiency anemia account for over half of stroke cases in children without an underlying medical illness,” says Dr. Jonathan Maguire, a study researcher. “These would have been children previously labelled as having (unexplained) stroke.”

“We believe that iron deficiency anemia is a significant risk factor for stroke in healthy children, and we suggest that successful strategies for primary prevention and early detection of iron deficiency anemia in young children are badly needed.”

Maguire says researchers have yet to provide a convincing explanation for the link between iron deficiency anemia and stroke.