A geneticist, Prof. Adeyinka Falusi, says regular blood transfusion can help decrease the prevalence of stroke in children with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD).
Falusi, who is the President of the Sickle Cell Hope Alive Foundation (SCHAF), Ibadan, said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Wednesday in Ibadan.
According to her, children with SCD have a high risk of stroke and recurrent stroke with consequent paralysis or death.
“Stroke in children with sickle cell disease continue to be a major cause of severe disability and it is always a shock for people to learn that a child can have a stroke.
“Sickle cell disease is the most common cause of childhood stroke. Stroke occurs in 17 to 24 per cent of children with SCD, most often between the ages of three and 10.
“SCD is already a chronic condition and it can become even more frustrating if the child has a stroke,” she said.
Falusi said that the best strategy to prevent strokes from occurring and recurring is through preventive measures like blood transfusion and routine use of Transcranial Doppler (TCD) screenings.
Transcranial Doppler (TCD) is a type of Doppler ultrasonography that measures the velocity of blood flow through the brain’s blood vessels by measuring the echoes of ultrasound waves moving transcranially through the cranium.
“Children at risk of developing stroke are identified by use of TCD Scan. A Transcranial Doppler uses ultrasound waves, or sound waves we can’t hear, to look at the blood flowing through the arteries in the brain.
“A TCD scan is used for early identification of children at risk of developing stroke, so that timely, life-saving prevention interventions can be instituted.
“Once the risk of stroke is identified in a child through screening, the preventive measures to take include repeated blood transfusion and exchange blood transfusion,” she said.
“When there are fewer sickled haemoglobin cells in the bloodstream, they are less likely to build up and block blood vessels,’’ said the expert.
Falusi explained that blood transfusion can also increase the number of normal red blood cells in the body, increasing the supply of oxygen to the body.
She, however, said that children who had suffered a stroke in the past had a high risk of having another stroke.
She said there the cause of such a high rate of recurrence is believed to be a rise in white blood cell count accompanied by a drop in haemoglobin after the first stroke.
“The most common sign of stroke is sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm or leg, most often on one side of the body.
“Severe headache with unknown cause and confusion,” she said.
The geneticist said that the common causes of stroke in children with SCD include history of seizures, nervous system infection, increase blood pressure and decreased haemoglobin level.
Falusi called on other groups, NGOs and corporate bodies to invest in SCD management to help reduce the societal burden of the disease.
Daily Trust News