Children with sickle cell anemia (SCA) and a primary overt stroke are at high risk of recurrent (secondary) stroke. Chronic transfusion therapy dramatically reduces but does not eliminate this high risk, and inevitably results in transfusion-related hemosiderosis. We previously reported the use of hydroxyurea/phlebotomy as an alternative to transfusions to reduce the risk of secondary stroke and improve management of iron overload in 35 children with SCA. To report long-term results, we retrospectively reviewed clinical and laboratory data through October 2008. With a median of 5.6 years and total of 219 patient-years of follow-up, 10 of 35 patients (29%) had recurrent stroke after switching to hydroxyurea; seven were previously reported and three new strokes occurred during extended follow-up. The overall secondary stroke event rate was 4.6 per 100 patient-years. Children on hydroxyurea received serial phlebotomy and had lower mean serum ferritin values than children on transfusions (591 ng/mL vs. 3410 ng/mL, P = 0.02). In this cohort, long-term hydroxyurea treatment reduced but did not eliminate the risk of stroke recurrence and, uniquely, allowed phlebotomy to reduce iron overload. Long-term assessments of this therapy should evaluate risk factors for secondary stroke and assessments of hemosiderosis, neurocognitive outcome, and health-related quality of life.
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