Silent strokes in sickle cell anemia can be abridged by recurrent blood transfusion

Posted on Aug 21 2014 - 7:59am by Dana Lindahl

Washington –  An international study, led by Vanderbilt, has found that regular blood supply to the children suffering from sickle cell anemia can significantly reduce their risk of “silent strokes”.
These strokes have been coined as silent as they are unnoticed, but can greatly damage an individual’s IQ. The study, which was followed on about 200 children suffering from the disease, states that monthly therapy of blood transfusion can decrease the risk by 58% for any further strokes.

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“The data make transfusion the only evidence-based option to prevent stroke recurrence and further brain injury in this vulnerable population,” said co-author Michael Noetzel, MD, Professor of neurology and pediatrics and chair of the study’s neurology committee. “Now that we have identified a viable treatment option, early detection of silent cerebral strokes should become a major focus of clinicians and families of children with sickle cell disease”.
Sickle cell anemia is an inherited disorder of hemoglobin in the blood. It requires the inheritance of two sickle genes. Virtually, all of the major symptoms of the sickle cell anemia are the direct result of the abnormally shaped sickled red blood cells blocking the flow of blood. This disease is incurable in nature.

Silent strokes are common phenomena of the disease. It occurs in approximately 3% in children, leading to their decreased performances. They are also prone to more dangerous strokes. The only way to diagnose these strokes is the Magnetic Resonance Imagining (MRI), of the brain.
The Silent Cerebral Infarct Transfusion trial looked at the efficacy of blood transfusion in preventing the strokes and thereby curing the disease.
The study encourages the early screenings of the children who can serve the purpose of early detection of these strokes as well as a reduction in complications of the disease such as acute painful episodes and acute chest syndromes.
“Now we have a treatment to offer,” quoted by Dr. James Casella, Vice-chair of the trial and the director of Pediatric Hematology at John Hopkins Children’s center in Baltimore. The report concluded that the children accused of the disease must be provided with the regular infusions of the therapy to combat the dreadful disease.
These findings were published in New England Journal of Medicine.

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