BACKGROUND - Studies have documented declining mortality from stroke in adults over the past two decades, with black adults at greater risk of death from stroke than whites in all years. As these findings have been attributed to control of stroke risk factors that are less important in children, trends and demographics of childhood stroke mortality are of interest, but have not been explored.
METHODS - The authors analyzed death certificate data for ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke (subarachnoid hemorrhage [SAH] and intracerebral hemorrhage [ICH]) in children under 20 years of age in the United States for the years 1979 through 1998, covering approximately 1.5 billion person-years.
RESULTS - Childhood mortality from stroke declined by 58% overall, with reductions in all major subtypes (ischemic stroke decreased by 19%; SAH, by 79%; ICH, by 54%). Black ethnicity was a risk factor for mortality from all stroke types (relative risk 1.74 for ischemic stroke; 1.76 for SAH; 2.06 for ICH; p < 0.0001 for all types). Male sex was a risk factor for mortality from SAH (relative risk 1.30, p < 0.0001) and ICH (relative risk 1.21, p < 0.0001), but not from ischemic stroke (relative risk 1.02, p = 0.76).
CONCLUSIONS - Mortality from stroke in US children has decreased dramatically over the last 20 years. Black children are at greater risk of death from all stroke types than are white children. As control of known stroke risk factors is unlikely to account for declining stroke mortality and ethnic differences in children, unrecognized stroke risk factors may be important.