Sickle cell disease: Primary stroke prevention

Mehari Gebreyohanns, Robert J. Adams

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Stroke is an important and common complication of sickle cell disease (SCD), affecting children as well as adults. Clinically evident stroke, usually brain infarction, is usually associated with stenosis or occlusion of the intracranial arteries of the Circle of Willis, sometimes with formation of moyamoya (a Japanese word for "hazy" or "like a puff of smoke" that describes the appearance of a abnormal microvasculature on angiography believed secondary to internal carotid artery stenosis or occlusion and the resultant extensive collateralization). Several types of intracranial hemorrhage are observed but usually in older children and adults. Cerebrovascular diseases restricted to small vessels may go unrecognized but is associated with cognitive and learning problems. Prevention of recurrent stroke has been accomplished with chronic blood transfusion. A primary prevention strategy for clinical stroke, based on the Stroke Prevention in Sickle Cell Anemia Trial, has been tested in a randomized clinical trial. Over 2,000 young children with SCD were screened with transcranial Doppler ultrasound (TCD) to detect elevated blood flow velocity indicative of vessel disease and high risk of future stroke. Those randomized to standard care (no transfusion) had a 10%/year risk of stroke, which was reduced >90% with chronic transfusion. This approach is the only primary stroke prevention strategy so far tested in SCD in a randomized controlled trial. Silent lesions on magnetic resonance imaging are associated with an ∼1.5%/year risk of clinical stroke and a trial is now starting in children with these lesions who do not meet Stroke Prevention in Sickle Cell Anemia Trial criteria for transfusion based on TCD. A controlled trial, based on intervention for nocturnal hypoxemia, is also underway. Hydroxyurea, bone marrow transplantation, antiplatelet, and antithrombotic agents may work but have not been tested in primary prevention in a systematic way. If early and repeated, TCD screening of children, as recommended by National Heart Lung and Blood Institute and the American Stroke Association, were implemented broadly the incidence of new strokes could be greatly reduced in these children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)445-449
Number of pages5
JournalCNS spectrums
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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