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Blood Transfusions Stop Strokes in Kids With Sickle Cell

Regular blood transfusions can prevent “silent” strokes in kids with sickle cell disease, lowering the risk of future strokes and preserving IQ as well as health, doctors reported Wednesday. A study of nearly 200 children found that monthly transfusions in those who had suffered silent strokes before lowered the risk of another stroke by 58 percent. "The results of this trial will make a difference to children with sickle cell anemia and their families,” said Dr. Deborah Hirtz, program director at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, part of the National Institutes of Health, which paid for the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Sickle cell disease is caused by malformed red blood cells. There’s no cure. It affects 1 in 100,000 Americans but one of every 396 black newborns. Besides stroke, it can cause organ damage and often severe pain, and even death. Silent stroke affects 30 percent of kids with sickle cell disease. "If scientists detect silent strokes early, young children can benefit from a wide array of educational interventions and can get support from federally mandated educational assistance programs to keep them from falling behind in school," said Dr. Michael DeBaun of Vanderbilt University, who led the study.

IN-DEPTH

— Maggie Fox