Overt stroke, clinically "silent" cerebral infarct, and neurocognitive impairment are frequent complications of sickle cell anemia (SCA). Current imaging techniques have limited sensitivity and specificity to identify children at risk for neurocognitive impairment. We prospectively evaluated 24 children with SCA with a neurologic exam, complete blood count, transcranial Doppler ultrasound (TCD), measurement of intelligence quotient (IQ), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with measurement of cerebral blood flow (CBF) using continuous arterial spinlabeling (CASL) MRI. Average CBF to gray matter was 112 ± 36 mL/100 g/min. We identified a strong inverse relationship between performance IQ and CBF (-1.5 points per 10 mL/100 g/min increase in CBF, P = .013). Elevated steady-state white blood cell count (≤ 14 = 109/L [14 000/μL]) was associated with lower full scale IQ (86 ± 9 vs 99 ± 10, P ± .005). CASL MRI may identify children with neurocognitive impairment, before damage is evident by structural MRI or TCD.
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