Effects of hydroxyurea on brain function in children with sickle cell anemia

Winfred C. Wang, Ping Zou, Scott N. Hwang, Guolian Kang, Juan Ding, Andrew M. Heitzer, Jane E. Schreiber, Kathleen Helton, Jane S. Hankins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Introduction: Sickle cell anemia (SCA) results in numerous adverse effects on the brain, including neurocognitive dysfunction. Hydroxyurea has been utilized extensively for management of SCA, but its effects on brain function have not been established. Methods: We examined prospectively the effects of 1 year of treatment with hydroxyurea on brain function in children with SCA (HbSS/HbSβ0-thalassemia) by baseline and exit evaluations, including comprehensive neurocognitive testing, transcranial Doppler ultrasound (TCD), and brain MRI (silent cerebral infarcts [SCI], gray matter cerebral blood flow [GM-CBF], and blood oxygen level-dependent [BOLD] signal from visual stimulation). Results: Nineteen patients with SCA, mean age 12.4 years (range 7.2–17.8), were evaluated. At baseline, subjects had these mean values: full-scale IQ (FSIQ) 82.8, TCD velocity 133 cm/s, GM-CBF 64.4 ml/100 g/min, BOLD signal 2.34% increase, and frequency of SCI 47%. After 1 year of hydroxyurea, there were increases in FSIQ (+2, p =.059) and reading passage comprehension (+4, p =.033), a significant decrease in TCD velocity (−11 cm/s, p =.007), and no significant changes in GM-CBF, BOLD, or SCI frequency. Hemoglobin F (HbF) was associated with passage comprehension, hemoglobin with lower TCD velocity, and lower GM-CBF with greater working memory. Higher BOLD signal was associated with higher processing speed and lower TCD velocity with higher math fluency. Discussion: Improvements in neurocognition and decreased TCD velocity following 1 year of treatment support hydroxyurea use for improving neurocognitive outcomes in SCA. Understanding the mechanisms of benefit, as indicated by relationships of neurocognitive function with HbF, hemoglobin, and CBF, requires further evaluation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere29254
JournalPediatric Blood and Cancer
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Hematology
  • Oncology


Dive into the research topics of 'Effects of hydroxyurea on brain function in children with sickle cell anemia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this