Silent strokes, which have no immediate symptoms but could cause long-term cognitive and learning deficits, occur in a significant number of severely anaemic children, especially those with sickle cell disease, according to research.
One-quarter to one-third of children with sickle cell disease have evidence of silent strokes in their brains, according to Michael M. Dowling, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the study and assistant professor of paediatrics and neurology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre in Dallas.
Sickle cell disease is a blood disorder characterised by low levels of haemoglobin, the iron-containing component of red blood cells that carries oxygen.
Low haemoglobin causes anaemia. In sickle cell disease, the blood cells are misshapen (sickle-shaped) and may form clots or block blood vessels. About 10% of children with sickle cell disease suffer a stroke. Blood transfusions can reduce the high risk of repeat strokes.