Assessing Clinical Severity in Children with Sickle Cell Disease

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Abstract

Purpose

Although it is clear that sickle cell disease is curable with bone marrow transplantation, there are few objective criteria that are helpful in the identification of suitable candidates for this aggressive and potentially life-threatening procedure. This disease is characterized by a highly variable clinical course, and there is a need to intervene with marrow transplant before the onset of disease-mediated chronic organ damage. These factors highlight the need for a clinical severity index that can prospectively identify patients who are at high risk for a turbulent clinical course and a poor prognosis.

Patients and Methods

We used the Cooperative Study of Sickle Cell Disease data base to identify features of the disease in early childhood (i.e., <2 years of age) that are associated either with significant morbidity later in childhood or early mortality. Our study population includes the 1,944 children who entered the study before 12 years of age. Univariate analysis showed that factors associated with the occurrence of cerebrovascular accident (51 patients) include hematocrit, rate of change of pocked red cell count, and polymer fraction at 40% oxygen saturation (PF40). Only low hematocrit was predictive of death in this pediatric cohort (45 disease-related deaths). Results: Our ability to identify other potential factors that correlate with these outcome measures is limited by their small numbers. Hence, it was necessary to designate a different endpoint whose relationship with various clinical and laboratory parameters could be assessed. To accomplish this, a distribution of acute events, which were defined as any episode of pain or acute chest syndrome, was calculated. Also, the age-specific “expected” event rate, defined as the mean number of events per patient-year of observation, was determined.

Conclusions

The relationship between various aspects of sickle cell disease and high positive deviance from the expected event rate will be assessed in a cohort of 519 children who entered the study prior to 7 months of age and were followed beyond their second birthday.

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