A recent clinical research study concluded that up to 50% of all children diagnosed with sickle cell disease (anemia) are at risk of having a stroke (Dowling, et. al. 2012). The “decrease in oxygen delivery to the brain,” caused by sickle cell disease, puts the child at risk of having a stroke. The study was performed over a 30-month period and focused on children ranging from 2 to 19 years of age. All children participating in the study had been previously diagnosed with sickle cell disease. While admitted to the hospital, the children’s hemoglobin levels were recorded daily.
The children underwent periodic magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests to assess their risk level for stroke. In addition, the children were given Pediatric Stroke Outcome Measure (PSOM) exams to further assess their risk for stroke. After careful evaluation and observation, the researchers concluded that 10% of the children were at risk of having a major stroke and that up to 40% of the children were at risk of having a minor stroke.
I recall from my textbook that sickle cell disease can sometimes cause a blockage in blood vessels due to the shape of the blood cells (Reece, et. al., 2011, p. 84). These blockages can result in a significant decrease in blood flow. I am now able to make the correlation that when these blockages occur, the brain is prone to receiving less oxygen than what is adequate. Therefore, a stroke is more apt to result due to the complications caused by the sickle cell disease.
The research study pointed out that patients with sickle cell disease have lower counts of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein that transports oxygen in red blood cells (Reece, et. al., 2011, p. 78).
A patient with severely low amounts of hemoglobin often experience acute anemia, which can be seen clinically as physical weakness, pain, organ damage, and paralysis (Reece, et. al., 2011, p. 278). During an acute episode, the patient is more likely to have a stroke. With a resulting low hemoglobin count, less oxygen is being transported in the blood stream.
It is now apparent to me that both complications indeed could result in a stroke. The sickle cell study that I mentioned was carried out in Dallas, Texas. Dallas is known for its warm weather. Sickle cell disease is prevalent in warm areas, as well as sub-tropical areas, so Dallas was a good area for the testing (Reece, et. al., 2011, p. 24).
I personally found the research article to be astounding and quite informative. In the past, I was only aware that sufferers of sickle cell disease might suffer heart or kidney failure. I was not aware that anyone with the disease was at risk of having a stroke. When it comes to research, I am cautious in selecting articles and always seek out the ones that have high standards.
In the research study that I chose, the researchers chose to exclude children that had previous brain injury. I was compelled to read the study for that reason; had the study included children with brain injury, they would have potentially been at risk for stroke anyway regardless of their sickle cell disease diagnosis. Although I am not affected by sickle cell disease, I do know a relative of mine that is affected by the disease.
While my relative is in his adulthood, however, he does have an infant of his own. I feel obligated to tell him about the study that I read. He might benefit from knowing that his child could be at risk for stroke if he also has sickle cell disease. Any parent with a child diagnosed with sickle cell disease should be informed as to the risk of stroke. A stroke might be prevented if the child is subjected to close monitoring of the disease.
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