Intra-individual variation in blood flow velocities in cerebral arteries of children with sickle cell disease

Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2007 Sep;49(3):318-22. doi: 10.1002/pbc.21142.


Background: Children with sickle cell disease (SCD) are at elevated risk of stroke. Risk increases with blood flow velocity in selected cerebral arteries, as measured by transcranial Doppler (TCD) ultrasound, and use of TCD to screen these patients is widely recommended. Interpretation of TCD results should be based on knowledge of intra-individual variation in blood flow velocity, information not currently available for sickle cell patients.

Procedures: Between 1995 and 2002, 4,141 subjects, 2-16 years old, with homozygous SCD or Sbeta0-thalasemmia and no history of stroke were screened with TCD, including 2,018 subjects screened in one clinical trial (STOP), 1,816 screened in another (STOP 2), and 307 screened in an interim ancillary prospective study. The 812 subjects with >or=2 examinations<6 months apart were selected for analysis, including 242 (29.8%) subjects with normal average velocities (i.e., <170 cm/sec), 350 (43.1%) subjects with conditional velocities (i.e., 170-199 cm/sec), and 220 (27.1%) subjects with abnormal velocities (i.e., >or=200 cm/sec). The intra-subject standard deviation of TCD velocity was estimated from the difference between velocities at the first two interpretable examinations on each subject.

Results: An intra-subject standard deviation of 14.9 cm/sec was obtained. Seven (0.9%) subjects had unusually large and unexplained differences between velocities at the two examinations (range of absolute differences: 69-112 cm/sec).

Conclusions: While stroke risk is well demonstrated to increase with increasingly abnormal TCD velocity, given the relatively large intra-subject variability, one TCD examination is generally not sufficient to characterize stroke risk in this patient population.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / diagnostic imaging
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / physiopathology*
  • Blood Flow Velocity
  • Cerebral Arteries / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Risk Assessment
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Stroke / prevention & control*
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Transcranial*