Normal muscle oxygen consumption and fatigability in sickle cell patients despite reduced microvascular oxygenation and hemorheological abnormalities

PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e52471. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0052471. Epub 2012 Dec 20.


Background/aim: Although it has been hypothesized that muscle metabolism and fatigability could be impaired in sickle cell patients, no study has addressed this issue.

Methods: We compared muscle metabolism and function (muscle microvascular oxygenation, microvascular blood flow, muscle oxygen consumption and muscle microvascular oxygenation variability, which reflects vasomotion activity, maximal muscle force and local muscle fatigability) and the hemorheological profile at rest between 16 healthy subjects (AA), 20 sickle cell-hemoglobin C disease (SC) patients and 16 sickle cell anemia (SS) patients.

Results: Muscle microvascular oxygenation was reduced in SS patients compared to the SC and AA groups and this reduction was not related to hemorhelogical abnormalities. No difference was observed between the three groups for oxygen consumption and vasomotion activity. Muscle microvascular blood flow was higher in SS patients compared to the AA group, and tended to be higher compared to the SC group. Multivariate analysis revealed that muscle oxygen consumption was independently associated with muscle microvascular blood flow in the two sickle cell groups (SC and SS). Finally, despite reduced muscle force in sickle cell patients, their local muscle fatigability was similar to that of the healthy subjects.

Conclusions: Sickle cell patients have normal resting muscle oxygen consumption and fatigability despite hemorheological alterations and, for SS patients only, reduced muscle microvascular oxygenation and increased microvascular blood flow. Two alternative mechanisms can be proposed for SS patients: 1) the increased muscle microvascular blood flow is a way to compensate for the lower muscle microvascular oxygenation to maintain muscle oxygen consumption to normal values or 2) the reduced microvascular oxygenation coupled with a normal resting muscle oxygen consumption could indicate that there is slight hypoxia within the muscle which is not sufficient to limit mitochondrial respiration but increases muscle microvascular blood flow.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / pathology
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Forearm / blood supply
  • Fourier Analysis
  • Hemorheology / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Microvessels / metabolism*
  • Microvessels / physiopathology
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Muscle Fatigue / physiology*
  • Muscles / metabolism
  • Muscles / physiopathology*
  • Oxygen / metabolism*
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology*
  • Regional Blood Flow
  • Rest


  • Oxygen

Grant support

This work was supported by local grants from the Academic Hospital of Pointe-à-Pitre (PHRC CHU de Pointe à Pitre). PhD funding of X.W. was supported by the association “Ensemble contre la drépanocytose” and by the regional council of Guadeloupe. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.