Objectives: To assess cognitive functioning in patients affected by beta-thalassemia major (beta-th) by using a neuropsychological battery, and to identify clinical correlates.
Material and methods: Forty-six beta-th patients and 46 controls similar for age, sex, and education participated in the study. All subjects performed a comprehensive neuropsychological battery including tests of abstract reasoning, attention, executive functions, language, constructional/visuospatial skills, and memory.
Results: Compared to controls beta-th patients, in particular those showing signs of hemosiderosis, were significantly impaired on all neuropsychological tests. There was no relationship between cognitive performances and signs of deferoxamine toxicity, deferoxamine dosage, and levels of hemoglobin and ferritin, while duration of transfusional therapy and time interval between onset of blood transfusions and onset of chelating treatment correlated with performances of tests assessing abstract reasoning, attention, constructional/visuospatial skills, memory and with the scores of the Mini Mental State Examination.
Conclusion: Our findings suggest that beta-th is associated with neuropsychological impairment involving multiple cognitive domains and argue for a potential role of hemosiderosis on cognitive functioning.