Silent cerebral infarcts in very young children with sickle cell anaemia are associated with a higher risk of stroke


Silent cerebral infarctions (SCI) are the most common neurological injury in children with sickle cell anaemia (SCA), but their incidence/prognosis in early childhood has not been well described. We report clinical, neuroradiological, psychometric and academic follow-up over an average period of 14 years in 37 children with SCA who had magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) of the brain between ages 7 and 48 months. Ten patients (27%) younger than age 5 years (Group I) had SCI, as did 12 (32%) older than 5 years (Group II). Fifteen (41%) had no lesions (Group III). Overt stroke or transient ischaemic attack occurred in 5/9 (56%) in Group I. Most Group I patients had progressive MRI abnormalities, concurrent stenosis, decreased cognitive ability, attention/executive function deficits and hindered academic attainment. The proportions of subjects in Group I with subsequent neurological events (P ≤ 0·006), progressive ischaemia (P ≤ 0·001) and vascular stenosis (P ≤ 0·006) were greater than in Groups II and III. Thus, SCI in young children with SCA may predict overt central nervous system events, progressive MRI abnormalities, stenosis, cognitive dysfunction and poor academic performance. Children younger than 5 years may benefit from MRI/MRA testing and should be considered for aggressive intervention when SCI are detected.

Publication Title

British Journal of Haematology