BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Sickle cell disease (SCD) is associated with cerebral hyperperfusion and an increased risk of stroke. Also, both recurrent microvascular obstruction and chronic hemolysis affect endothelial function, potentially interfering with systemic and cerebral blood flow control. We addressed the question whether cerebrovascular control in patients with SCD is affected and related to hemolysis.
METHODS: Systemic and cerebrovascular control were studied in 18 patients with SCD and 10 healthy subjects. Dynamic cerebral autoregulation was evaluated by transfer function analysis assessing the relationship between mean cerebral blood flow velocity and mean arterial pressure.
RESULTS: Normal baroreflex sensitivity and postural cardiovascular reflex responses indicated integrity of systemic cardiovascular control. In the low- (0.07 to 0.15 Hz) frequency region, mean arterial pressure variability was comparable for both groups, but a larger mean cerebral blood flow velocity variability in SCD (6.1 [4.6 to 7.0] versus 4.2 [2.6 to 5.2] [cm x s(-1)](2) x Hz(-1); P<0.05) indicated a reduced capacity to buffer the transfer of blood pressure surges to the cerebral tissue. Impairment of dynamic cerebrovascular control was confirmed by a reduced mean arterial pressure-to-mean cerebral blood flow velocity transfer function phase lead in SCD versus healthy subjects (32+/-17 degrees versus 50+/-19 degrees , P<0.05) that was unrelated to the severity of hemolysis.
CONCLUSIONS: In patients with SCD, dynamic cerebral autoregulation is impaired but appears unrelated to hemolysis.