Entries in Blood Vessels (3)


6-Year-Old Has Stroke, Doctors Spot Rare Moyamoya Disease

Courtesy Dan Wilcox(TOLEDO, Ohio) -- Six-year-old Erica Wilcox woke up one fall morning in 2011 and told her parents her right hand felt "fizzy."

The first-grader was healthy and active, even running cross-country at her elementary school, so her parents, Dan and Leann Wilcox, of Toledo, Ohio, didn't think much of it.

"Honestly, we kind of wrote it off as her just sleeping on her arm wrong," Dan Wilcox said.

They had no idea their young daughter had had a stroke.

"If you would have told me when I was watching her run on the track that a few days later I'd be taking her to the hospital for a stroke, I'd have never believed it," Wilcox said.  "But there were warning signs there."

Many people hear "stroke" and think only older adults, perhaps with heart disease or other underlying conditions, are stricken.  But children can also suffer from strokes, although they are rare.  Doctors estimate that about six out of 100,000 children have a stroke each year.  Stroke is one of the top 10 causes of death for children in the U.S.

The cause of Erica's stroke made it even more unusual.  Erica has Moyamoya, a rare condition in which the vessels feeding blood to the brain become narrowed over time as the walls of the arteries get thicker.  Sensing the lower flow of blood, the body will try to compensate by sprouting new webs of smaller blood vessels to bypass the blockage, creating what the Japanese call Moyamoya, meaning "puff of smoke," on brain imaging scans.

Moyamoya primarily affects children and teens, who are usually unaware that their arteries are silently narrowing, choking off blood to their brains.  Dr. Mark Bain, a neurosurgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, said often the condition is diagnosed only when a child comes to the hospital after having a stroke.

"A lot of times, the signs will be very subtle, like numbness or tingling in the limbs," Bain said.  "It's such a rare thing to have a stroke in children that a lot of the time, people don't diagnose it right away."

Weeks after Erica awoke with "fizziness" in her hand, Leann Wilcox was helping Erica with her homework, and noticed that she was using her left hand to write, even though she was right-handed.  When Wilcox asked her to hold her pencil in her right hand, Erica said she couldn't.  Hours later, Erica told her parents that she couldn't put her clothes on after taking a shower.  By the time the Wilcoxes got to the hospital 10 minutes from their home, Erica couldn't move her lower arm at all.

"It was unbelievably scary," Dan Wilcox said.

Wilcox said Erica's doctors were initially perplexed and, spotting the "puff of smoke" blood vessels on her brain scans, thought that she had a brain tumor.  But more tests revealed Erica's stroke and Moyamoya.

Doctors understand very little about the causes of Moyamoya, although a genetic basis for the disease is suspected.  Bain said blood-thinning drugs like aspirin can be a short-term solution, but ultimately the best solution is surgery to try to restore the brain's blood flow.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mediterranean Diet May Be Good for the Brain, Study Finds

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A Mediterranean diet may reduce small-vessel damage to the brain, according to a new study published in the Archives of Neurology.

Researchers from University of Miami and Columbia University analyzed food frequency questionnaires filled out by 966 participants in the Northern Manhattan Study, a study designed to identify risk factors for stroke and coronary disease.  Study participants then underwent brain MRI scans to analyze the white matter hyperintensity volume, which is a sign of small vessel disease.

Researchers found that people who closely followed a Mediterranean diet -- which is made up of fruits, vegetables, olive oil, legumes, whole grains, little red meat and a glass of red wine here and there -- had fewer brain lesions than those who had higher-fat and more red meat-based diets.  People who exercised more were also more likely to consume foods associated with the Mediterranean diet.

“Normally, these lesions are associated with hypertension, high-cholesterol, diabetes and age,” said Dr. Clinton Wright, associate professor of neurology at Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami Medical Center and senior author of the study.  “We saw that there was a relationship between diet and this marker of small vessel disease.  Those who adhered to a more Mediterranean diet had less small vessel damage.”

Small vessel disease is a condition where the small arteries in the heart become narrowed.  The disease can cause signs of heart disease, including chest pain and artery blockages, and it is most common in women and diabetics, according to the Mayo Clinic. The lesions are also linked to cognitive disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease.

“Of course, this was an association study, and we’d need randomized trials to prove this association,” said Wright.

Dr. Ken Fujioka, director of nutrition and metabolic research at Scripps Health Clinic in San Diego, said the biggest single difference in the Mediterranean diet versus many other diets is the high amount of mono-unsaturated fats (found in vegetable oils, fish, nuts oils and avocados) that have been shown to have multiple health benefits.

Fujioka said he agreed with the findings, but said, “as we move forward we will get to a point for some people [where] this will be the best diet, but for others, a different diet might be better and the future is trying to find out which diet [is best] for which patient.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Man Dies From Severe Nosebleed

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- The death of a 47-year-old British man who suffered a severe nosebleed has medical examiners perplexed. Robert Ford of Gravesend, Kent, was walking with a friend when the nosebleed started, the U.K. Daily Mail reported Friday.

The bleeding was so severe that Ford went to a local medical center. After the bleeding stopped, doctors told Ford to go home and put ice on his nose. But hours later, he was dead.

An inquest into Ford’s death determined that blood had blocked his airways, causing suffocation. But how the blood got there -- since the nosebleed had apparently stopped -- is a mystery.

“This was certainly an odd case,” Dr. Olaf Biedrzycki, a pathologist who testified at the inquest, told the Daily Mail. “We don’t really know how to explain it. I’ve looked very hard for a source of the blood and could not find it.”

Ford’s father, Michael, called 911 after finding his son on the floor with a pool of blood around his mouth, according to the Daily Mail. There were also dime-sized spots of blood throughout the house.

The coroner ruled the death a result of natural causes.

The lining of the nose contains tiny blood vessels that can rupture when dry or irritated. Cold weather, a scratch, certain chemicals and allergies can trigger bleeding.

“We see an increased frequency of nosebleeds as the weather turns cooler because people start heating their homes,” said Dr. Jason Homme, assistant professor of pediatrics at the Mayo Clinic. “When the humidity goes down, the nasal lining is drier and more prone to irritation.”

In children, Homme said, the most common cause of nosebleeds is digital trauma -- nose picking.

Most nosebleeds aren’t serious. But in rare instances, they can signal more serious problems like bleeding disorders.

Nosebleeds resulting from trauma, such as a sports injury or a car accident, should also be examined by a physician.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio