Review Article

Paediatric Drugs

, Volume 3, Issue 6, pp 421-432

Stroke in Children With Sickle Cell Anaemia

Aetiology and Treatment
  • Charles H. PegelowAffiliated withDepartment of Pediatrics (R-131), University of Miami School of Medicine Email author 

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Abstract

Cerebral infarction is a frequent, severe complication of sickle cell anaemia. During childhood, most strokes are due to infarction with the majority resulting from occlusion of the large cerebral arteries. Risk factors include transient ischaemic attacks, acute chest syndrome, severe anaemia and elevated blood pressure. Less certain is the association with leucocytosis, or protection provided by α-thalassaemia or fetal haemoglobin. Children who have one stroke are at significant risk for having subsequent events that can be substantially reduced by maintaining haemoglobin S below 30%. It has not yet been possible to identify individuals for whom transfusion can be safely stopped. Haemosiderosis is a consequence of intensive and long term transfusion therapy, which requires chelation with deferoxamine. Iron accumulation can be minimised using erythrocytapheresis but this is technically difficult in children, expensive and results in increased donor exposure. In addition to lesions associated with strokes, an additional 17% of patients can be shown to have clinically silent cerebral infarcts. Although these are termed ‘silent’, those affected have mild neuropsychological deficits. Their relationship to stroke or risk for recurrence is unknown. Transfusion therapy has been shown to provide primary stroke prevention for children who have elevated cerebral artery velocity. Finally, intracranial haemorrhages, more commonly found in adults, also affect children. Subarachnoid haemorrhage is frequently found to result from cerebral artery aneurysms. A condition that mimics the moyamoya syndrome radiographically, as well as for its risk of haemorrhage, can be found in children with partly occluded cerebral arteries either as a result of stroke or silent infarct.