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Cardiovascular changes in children with sickle cell crisis

  • Richard Onalo (a1), Peter Cooper (a2), Antoinette Cilliers (a3) and Uche Nnebe-Agumadu (a4)



Sickle cell anaemia is characterised by frequent, sometimes serious events referred to as “crisis”. Cardiopulmonary consequences such as pulmonary hypertension and myocardial ischaemia may accompany a serious crisis.


To determine the cardiovascular changes that occur during a severe sickle cell crisis.


A cross-sectional comparative study of sickle cell anaemia in children (5–17 years) admitted during a severe crisis (cases) and those in steady state (controls) was conducted over a 2-year period. Effects of the crisis on the cardiopulmonary system were assessed. The diagnosis of myocardial ischaemia was made using electrocardiography and serological cardiac biomarkers, while cardiac dysfunction and the presence of pulmonary hypertension were determined using echocardiography. The presence of systemic hypertension and tachycardia was also evaluated.


A total of 176 patients were recruited, 92 in steady state (male:female ratio, 1.2:1) and 84 in severe crisis (male:female ratio, 1.3:1). The mean age was 10.4 ± 3.2 years for steady state and 10.5 ± 3.4 years for those in crisis. The mean heart rate in crisis was higher than in steady state (p < 0.0001). The blood pressures (systolic, p < 0.0001, diastolic, p < 0.0001, mean, p < 0.0001) as well as myocardial ischaemia scores (p < 0.0001) were higher in patients with crisis than in those in steady state. Similarly, conduction abnormalities, pulmonary hypertension, and ventricular dysfunction were more prevalent in the crisis than in the steady state.


The present data suggest that sickle cell crisis results in a derangement of clinical, electrocardiographical, and echocardiographical parameters in children with sickle cell anaemia. Further research on these cardiovascular events may improve the overall care of these patients.


Corresponding author

Author for correspondence: Richard Onalo, Department of Paediatrics, Faculty of Clinical Sciences, College of Health Sciences, University of Abuja, PMB 117, Gwagwalada, Abuja, Nigeria. Tel: +234 803 701 7678; E-mail:


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Cardiovascular changes in children with sickle cell crisis

  • Richard Onalo (a1), Peter Cooper (a2), Antoinette Cilliers (a3) and Uche Nnebe-Agumadu (a4)


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