Spleen size in homozygous sickle cell disease: trends in a birth cohort using ultrasound


OBJECTIVES: To provide ultrasound baselines for spleen length in homozygous sickle cell disease (HbSS) and in normal controls with a HbAA genotype. METHODS: The Jamaican cohort study identified 311 babies with HbSS and 246 matched HbAA controls during the screening of 100,000 consecutive deliveries in Kingston, Jamaica from 1973 to 1981. Ultrasonography commenced in 1988 when the youngest patients were aged 6 years at which time deaths, emigrations and default had reduced the numbers to 206 HbSS and 89 controls. It continued annually until 2000. RESULTS: The spleen was visualized in all HbAA controls but in only 1103/2138 (52%) scans in HbSS. Where available, mean splenic lengths were significantly lower in HbSS (77-103 mm in males, 70-83 mm in females) compared to normal controls (89-101 mm in males, 86-95 mm in females). Assessed by statistical modelling after adjusting for body height, the splenic ratio (splenic length/body height) declined over the age range 12-20 years in HbSS, consistent with progressive splenic fibrosis. Genetic factors known to inhibit sickling, α thalassemia and fetal hemoglobin level (HbF) significantly reduced the decline in splenic ratio. Clinical splenomegaly was an insensitive measure of splenic enlargement as only 50% of patients aged 18 years and above with spleens measuring ≥150 mm on ultrasonography had palpable spleens. CONCLUSIONS: An age-related decline in splenic length occurred in HbSS and occurred more slowly with genetic factors known to inhibit sickling. The standards provided may be of value in assessing minor degrees of subclinical acute splenic sequestration. ADVANCES IN KNOWLEDGE: These are the first standards available for splenic length in HbSS. They may be useful in detecting red cell sequestration, not apparent from clinical splenomegaly and also provide a model for identifying factors inhibiting vaso-occlusion.

The British journal of radiology