Sickle cell anaemia (SCA) is a serious genetic disease affecting 12-15,000 people in the UK. It is also one of the most common causes of stroke in children. About 40% of children with SCA will have experienced small silent strokes, also called silent cerebral infarction (SCI), by the time they reach 14 years of age. Silent strokes are associated with impaired school performance, epileptic fits and an increased risk of further, bigger strokes. Currently, there is no routine way to identify or prevent SCIs in children with SCA; the only way to detect SCIs is with a brain scan (MRI) which is difficult in young children, often requiring a general anaesthetic.
This study aims to develop a simple blood test for SCI in children with SCA. The researchers will analyse the blood of 50 SCA children, half with SCI and half without, to find proteins in the blood that indicate the presence of silent strokes. The study will help us to understand more about the causes of stroke and SCI in children with SCA and also allow the condition to be diagnosed without a brain scan. Early identification of SCI would allow better assessment and consideration of the child’s educational needs and allow treatments to be started that could prevent further strokes from occurring.