Introduction: Male Sickle cell disease (SCD) patients often have moderate to severe hypogonadism resulting in abnormal seminal fluid parameters due to testicular dysfunction. Hydroxyurea (HU), the only drug found to be effective in preventing morbidity and mortality in sickle cell disease patients has been found to further aggravate the testicular dysfunction.
Material and methods: This was a prospective study done at a tertiary care hospital over 26 months between September 2011 to October 2013. 100 male sickle cell disease patients of age group 15 to 45 years were recruited in the study. We evaluated seminal fluid indices in all patients and the effect of hydroxyurea on seminal fluid parameters. Hydroxyurea was given at low dose of 10mg/kg/day orally to patients with frequent vaso-occlusive crisis and frequent need of blood transfusion. Seminal fluid analysis was done according to WHO criteria before starting hydroxyurea and every 3 months after initiation of hydroxyurea. Patients with abnormal seminal parameters before hydroxyurea therapy were not given hydroxyurea therapy. Patients with abnormal sperm parameters were subjected for FNAC of testis. In sickle cell disease patients with hydroxyurea therapy, who developed abnormal seminal fluid parameters, hydroxyurea was stopped for 3 months and seminal fluid parameters were re-evaluated. Patients who had recovery of seminal indices after hydroxyurea cessation were restarted with hydroxyurea therapy at low dose.
Results: Among Sickle cell disease patients without hydroxyurea therapy, 18% of patients developed oligospermia and 4% developed azoospermia. Among sickle cell disease patients with hydroxyurea therapy, 20% of patients developed oligospermia and 10% developed azoospermia. Seminal fluid parameters reverted back to normal after stoppage of hydroxyurea for 3 months in 73% of patients.
Conclusions: Alteration of sperm parameters is seen in a significant number of sickle cell disease patients. Also, alterations of seminal fluid parameters are exacerbated by hydroxyurea treatment even with low dose. Therefore, treatment with hydroxyurea in adolescent and adult male sickle cell disease patients should be preceded by routine assessment of seminal fluid parameters and followed up regularly every 3 months for any change in seminal fluid parameters for evidence of hydroxyurea toxicity.