Impairment of Cerebrovascular Hemodynamics in Patients With Severe and Milder Forms of Sickle Cell Disease

Liza Afzali-Hashemi, Koen P.A. Baas, Anouk Schrantee, Bram F. Coolen, Matthias J.P. van Osch, Stefan M. Spann, Erfan Nur, John C. Wood, Bart J. Biemond, Aart J. Nederveen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In patients with sickle cell disease (SCD), cerebral blood flow (CBF) is elevated to counteract anemia and maintain oxygen supply to the brain. This may exhaust the vasodilating capacity of the vessels, possibly increasing the risk of silent cerebral infarctions (SCI). To further investigate cerebrovascular hemodynamics in SCD patients, we assessed CBF, arterial transit time (ATT), cerebrovascular reactivity of CBF and ATT (CVRCBF and CVRATT) and oxygen delivery in patients with different forms of SCD and matched healthy controls. We analyzed data of 52 patients with severe SCD (HbSS and HbSβ0-thal), 20 patients with mild SCD (HbSC and HbSβ+-thal) and 10 healthy matched controls (HbAA and HbAS). Time-encoded arterial spin labeling (ASL) scans were performed before and after a vasodilatory challenge using acetazolamide (ACZ). To identify predictors of CBF and ATT after vasodilation, regression analyses were performed. Oxygen delivery was calculated and associated with hemoglobin and fetal hemoglobin (HbF) levels. At baseline, severe SCD patients showed significantly higher CBF and lower ATT compared to both the mild SCD patients and healthy controls. As CBFpostACZ was linearly related to CBFpreACZ, CVRCBF decreased with disease severity. CVRATT was also significantly affected in severe SCD patients compared to mild SCD patients and healthy controls. Considering all groups, women showed higher CBFpostACZ than men (p < 0.01) independent of baseline CBF. Subsequently, post ACZ oxygen delivery was also higher in women (p < 0.05). Baseline, but not post ACZ, GM oxygen delivery increased with HbF levels. Our data showed that baseline CBF and ATT and CVRCBF and CVRATT are most affected in severe SCD patients and to a lesser extent in patients with milder forms of SCD compared to healthy controls. Cerebrovascular vasoreactivity was mainly determined by baseline CBF, sex and HbF levels. The higher vascular reactivity observed in women could be related to their lower SCI prevalence, which remains an area of future work. Beneficial effects of HbF on oxygen delivery reflect changes in oxygen dissociation affinity from hemoglobin and were limited to baseline conditions suggesting that high HbF levels do not protect the brain upon a hemodynamic challenge, despite its positive effect on hemolysis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number645205
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2021


  • arterial spin label (ASL) MRI
  • arterial transit time
  • cerebral blood flow
  • cerebrovascular reactivity
  • hemodynamic abnormalities
  • sickle cell anaemia
  • vascular reactivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)

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