Elevated pulmonary arterial systolic pressure is strongly associated with mortality in patients with sickle cell disease (SCD). A tricuspid regurgitant velocity (TRV) of 2.5 m/s or greater by trans-thoracic echocardiogram is a key marker of risk [–3]. The pathophysiologic mechanism involves release from the red cell during intravascular hemolysis of cell-free plasma hemoglobin and arginase . Hydroxyurea is the only drug approved by the Food and Drug Administrations specifically for SCD. It acts by increasing levels of fetal hemoglobin, which inhibits sickling, and has been shown to reduce the incidence of vaso-occlusive crisis (VOC), and prolong survival in patients with sickle cell disease [5,6]. Because fetal hemoglobin also reduces the rate of hemolysis in SCD, hypothetically, hydroxyurea might also reduce the severity of hemolysis-linked vascular dysfunction and pulmonary hypertension. Herein, we describe five patients with sickle cell disease having elevated pulmonary arterial systolic pressure who exhibited improvement in their baseline laboratory parameters of hemolysis, accompanied by reduced TRV, during treatment with hydroxyurea. Hydroxyurea may have a role in the management of selected patients with elevated TRV.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00081523.