Current Treatment Options in Neurology

, Volume 8, Issue 6, pp 503-512

First online:

Treatment and prevention of stroke in children with sickle cell disease

  • Shyamal H. Mehta
  • , Robert J. AdamsAffiliated withDepartment of Neurology, Medical College of Georgia

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Opinion statement

Stroke is one of the major complications in children with sickle cell disease (SCD). Ischemic stroke is associated with small asymptomatic subcortical infarcts to large territorial lesions causing major disability. Intracranial hemorrhages may be caused by aneurysm rupture or by leakage from moyamoya vessels or venous sources. There have been no acute stroke treatment studies in SCD, but hydration and exchange transfusion are often recommended. However, there is an evidence base for primary and to some extent secondary stroke prevention. Primary prevention of stroke was demonstrated in the Stroke Prevention Trial in Sickle Cell Anemia (STOP), in which children with transcranial Doppler (TCD) mean blood flow velocities of 200 cm/second (previously shown to indicate high stroke risk) or higher were randomized to either regular blood transfusions or no transfusion. The study showed a very significant 90% reduction in first stroke with transfusion. In STOP2, discontinuing transfusions after 30 months or more (even with normal TCD) resulted in a high rate of reversion to abnormal TCD values and stroke. TCD screening of all children with SCD, and initiation and maintenance of chronic transfusion to maintain hemoglobin S below 30% in the high-risk group, is the only proven prevention strategy for stroke in SCD. Hydroxyurea is being studied as secondary stroke prevention at this time. No recommendation specific to SCD regarding the use of antiplatelet agents or anticoagulants in ischemic stroke can be made. Bone marrow transplantation can be curative for SCD, and limited data support its use to prevent stroke in SCD.