Objective: Stroke is an important but under-recognised cause of childhood mortality. We aimed to describe the trends in mortality from childhood stroke in England and Wales between 1921 and 2000.
Design: We searched the Office for National Statistics mortality database for the years 1921-2000 using appropriate, previously validated ICD codes. Mortality rates were analysed by period of death, gender, age at death, birth cohort, and stroke subtype.
Results: 6029 deaths from childhood stroke were found between 1921-2000. Analysis by period of death demonstrated an initial decline in mortality followed by a steep rise in the 1940s. Subsequently, rates declined from the late 1960s onwards. At all time points males had a higher mortality rate than females. Infants had a relatively high mortality rate (24.5 per million person years) but rates fell steeply in early childhood (2.5 per million person years at age 5-9 years) before rising again in late adolescence (7.5 per million person years at age 15-19 years). An increased rate was found for males at all ages (RR=1.24, p<0.0001) but was greatest in infancy (RR=1.45, p<0.0001). Haemorrhagic stroke accounted for 71% of stroke deaths. Birth cohort analysis showed a trend of declining mortality with each successive generation since the 1940s.
Conclusions: This study describes characteristics and temporal changes in childhood stroke mortality in the 20th Century. In particular, the higher mortality rates in males and infants, the importance of deaths from haemorrhagic stroke and the finding of a decline in birth cohort mortality since the 1940s provide aetiological insights.