Sickle cell disease (SCD) is complicated by silent cerebral infarcts, visible as white matter hyperintensities (WMHs) on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Both local vaso-occlusion, elicited by endothelial dysfunction, and insufficiency of cerebral blood flow (CBF) have been proposed to be involved in the aetiology. We performed an explorative study to investigate the associations between WMHs and markers of endothelial dysfunction and CBF by quantifying WMH volume on 3·0 Tesla MRI. We included 40 children with HbSS or HbSβ0thalassaemia, with a mean age of 12·1 ± 2·6 years. Boys demonstrated an increased risk for WMHs (odds ratio 4·5, 95% confidence interval 1·2-17·4), unrelated to glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency. In patients with WMHs, lower fetal haemoglobin (HbF) was associated with a larger WMH volume (regression coefficient = -0·62, R2 = 0·25, P = 0·04). Lower ADAMTS13 (a disintegrin and metalloproteinase with a thrombospondin type 1 motif, member 13) levels were associated with lower CBF in the white matter (regression coefficient = 0·07, R2 = 0·15, P = 0·03), suggesting that endothelial dysfunction could potentially hamper CBF. The findings of our explorative study suggest that a high level of HbF may be protective for WMHs and that endothelial dysfunction may contribute to the development of WMHs by reducing CBF.

Cerebral blood flow, Sickle cell disease, White matter hyperintensities,
British Journal of Haematology
Department of Pediatrics

van der Land, V, Mutsaerts, H.-J, Engelen, M, Heijboer, H, Roest, M, Hollestelle, M.J, … Fijnvandraat, K. (2016). Risk factor analysis of cerebral white matter hyperintensities in children with sickle cell disease. British Journal of Haematology, 172(2), 274–284. doi:10.1111/bjh.13819