The risk of stroke in sickle cell disease (SCD) may be influenced by either genetic or environmental factors. Elevated blood flow velocity in the large cerebral arteries, detected by transcranial Doppler (TCD) ultrasonography, predicts an increased stroke risk in children with SCD. We undertook this study to investigate the possibility of a familial predisposition to elevated cerebral blood flow velocity, a surrogate marker for stroke risk. We analysed the results of TCD studies performed on 63 children from 29 families that had more than one child with SCD. We assessed the association of elevated cerebral blood flow velocity with sibling TCD results as well as age and haemoglobin level, which are factors known to affect cerebral blood flow velocity. Positive or negative TCD results were highly correlated between family members (r = 0.61). The presence of a sibling with a positive TCD result was significantly associated with an elevated cerebral blood flow velocity in other siblings with SCD (odds ratio = 50.7, 95% confidence interval 10.1-253.7, P < 0.001). Furthermore, children who had a sibling with a positive TCD result had a significantly higher TCD velocity than children with SCD but without a sibling who were matched for age, sex, genotype and haemoglobin level. Our results are consistent with a familial predisposition to cerebral vasculopathy in SCD.