Author(s): Ware RE, Zimmerman SA, Schultz WH
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Abstract Children with sickle cell disease (SCD) and stroke receive chronic transfusions to prevent stroke recurrence. Transfusion risks including infection, erythrocyte allosensitization, and iron overload suggest a need for alternative therapies. We previously used hydroxyurea (HU) and phlebotomy in two young adults with SCD and stroke as an alternative to transfusions. We have now prospectively discontinued transfusions in 16 pediatric patients with SCD and stroke. Reasons to discontinue transfusions included erythrocyte alloantibodies or autoantibodies, recurrent stroke on transfusions, iron overload, noncompliance, and deferoxamine allergy. HU was started at 15 mg/kg/d and escalated to 30 mg/kg/d based on hematologic toxicity. Patients with iron overload underwent phlebotomy. The children have been off transfusions 22 months, (range, 3 to 52 months). Their average HU dose is 24.9 +/- 4.2 mg/kg/d, hemoglobin concentration is 9.4 +/- 1.3 g/dL, and mean corpuscular volume (MCV) is 112 +/- 9 fL. Maximum percentage fetal hemoglobin (\%HbF) is 20.6\% +/- 8.0\% and percentage HbF-containing erythrocytes (\%F cells) is 79.3\% +/- 14.7\%. Fourteen patients underwent phlebotomy with an average of 8,993 mL (267 mL/kg) removed. Serum ferritin has decreased from 2,630 to 424 ng/mL, and 4 children have normal ferritin values. Three patients (19\%) had neurological events considered recurrent stroke, each 3 to 4 months after discontinuing transfusions, but before maximal HU effects. These preliminary data suggest some children with SCD and stroke may discontinue chronic transfusions and use HU therapy to prevent stroke recurrence. Phlebotomy is well-tolerated and significantly reduces iron overload. Modifications in HU therapy to raise HbF more rapidly might increase protection against stroke recurrence.
This article was published in Blood
and referenced in Journal of Blood Disorders & Transfusion