-Author name in bold denotes the presenting author
-Asterisk * with author name denotes a Non-ASH member
Clinically Relevant Abstract denotes an abstract that is clinically relevant.

PhD Trainee denotes that this is a recommended PHD Trainee Session.

Ticketed Session denotes that this is a ticketed session.

2620 Building Capacity and Assessing Stroke Risk with Transcranial Doppler Ultrasonography in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Reach Experience

Program: Oral and Poster Abstracts
Session: 114. Hemoglobinopathies, Excluding Thalassemia—Clinical: Poster III
Hematology Disease Topics & Pathways:
sickle cell disease, Biological, Diseases, Hemoglobinopathies, Clinically relevant
Monday, December 7, 2020, 7:00 AM-3:30 PM

Brigida Santos, MD1*, Maria Nakafeero2*, Adam Lane, PhD3*, Leon Tshilolo, MD PhD4*, Thomas N. Williams, MD PhD5*, Peter Olupot-Olupot, MD PhD6*, Janet Adams7*, Banu Aygun, MD8, Susan E. Stuber, MA9*, George A. Tomlinson, PhD, BSc, MSc10*, Teresa Latham, MA9*, Patrick T. McGann, MD7,11 and Russell E. Ware, MD, PhD11,12

1Hospital Pediatrico David Bernardino, Luanda, Angola
2Global Health Uganda, Kampala, UGA
3Bone Marrow Transplantation and Immune Deficiency, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH
4Centre Hospitalier Monkole, Kinshasa, Congo (The Democratic Republic of the)
5KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Programme, Kilifi, Kenya
6Mbale Clinical Research Institute, Mbale, Uganda
7Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Division of Hematology, Cincinnati, OH
8Pediatric Hematology Oncology and Stem Cell Transplantation, Cohen Children's Medical Center, New Hyde Park, NY
9Division of Hematology, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH
10Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
11Global Health Center, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH
12Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH

Introduction: Transcranial Doppler (TCD) screening data from Uganda, Tanzania, and Nigeria have documented elevated velocities in >20% of children with sickle cell anemia (SCA) not receiving hydroxyurea treatment. Realizing Effectiveness Across Continents with Hydroxyurea (REACH, NCT01966731) has demonstrated the safety, feasibility, and benefits of hydroxyurea for children with SCA living in sub-Saharan Africa, especially when escalated to maximum tolerated dose (MTD). Whether hydroxyurea also confers protection against stroke risk in this setting remains unproven, though hydroxyurea-associated increases in hemoglobin and fetal hemoglobin, plus decreases in TCD arterial flow velocities, should lower the risk of both primary and secondary stroke. The availability of TCD equipment and appropriately trained and certified TCD examiners to perform this non-invasive and inexpensive procedure is an important limitation in low-resource settings.

Methods: REACH teams in Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, and Uganda identified two local persons at each site to receive formal TCD training and certification from two experienced and certified super-users, one from Uganda and one from the US. Initial training included hands-on teaching at each site by the Ugandan trainer, followed by didactic teaching and hands-on examinations at a central African location with both trainers and all four REACH teams. Follow-up training included monthly web-based teaching sessions of TCD technique and discussion of centrally reviewed exams. Each local examiner had at least 30 completed examinations reviewed, critiqued, and discussed together with the trainers before becoming formally certified as a REACH TCD examiner. After certification, all REACH participants taking hydroxyurea at a stable dose were eligible for TCD using a standardized protocol with identical Sonara/tek advanced non-imaging TCD ultrasound units with 2MHz probes and version 7 software (Natus, Middleton, WI). Time-averaged maximum velocities (TAMV) were measured in the middle cerebral artery, distal internal carotid artery, and the bifurcation. The highest TAMV was recorded and categorized as normal (<170 cm/sec), conditional (170-199 cm/sec), or abnormal (≥200 cm/sec) and correlated with laboratory and clinical parameters.

Results: Between November 2018 and March 2020, a total of 481 children in REACH received TCD screening; the average age was 9.3 ± 2.6 years, on hydroxyurea for 43 ± 8 months at an average dose of 23.5 ± 5.0 mg/kg/day with good response (Hb = 8.4 ± 1.3 g/dL, HbF = 23.9 ± 5.0%). There were 16 (3.3%) inadequate exams, defined as no vessel flow in either hemisphere; 5 inadequate exams were in children with prior stroke at hydroxyurea initiation and 1 with stroke on treatment. Of 465 adequate exams, the overall median TAMV was 128 cm/sec (IQR 25 cm/sec) with 449 normal velocities (96.6% overall, range by site 95.1-99.2%), 16 conditional velocities (3.4% overall, range by site 2.3-4.9%), and no abnormal velocities. In univariate analysis, maximum TAMV was inversely correlated with hemoglobin (r = -0.29, p<0.0001), age (r = -0.23, p<0.0001), and fetal hemoglobin (r = -0.12, p=0.027); and positively correlated with reticulocytes (r = 0.17, p<0.001). No gender difference was noted, but alpha thalassemia trait (2-gene deletion) was associated with significantly lower TCD velocities, while G6PD A- deficiency had no observed effects.

Conclusions: Robust TCD screening capability was developed in REACH with detailed training, certification, and oversight of local personnel, most of whom had no prior experience. Compared to untreated children, very few REACH participants had elevated TAMV velocities, confirming that hydroxyurea lowers TCD velocities and reduces stroke risk for children with SCA in sub-Saharan Africa. The observed associations between TAMV and both hemoglobin and fetal hemoglobin document the importance of escalating hydroxyurea to achieve and maintain an optimized dose. In low-resource settings, TCD screening efforts by trained and certified examiners should be aligned with hydroxyurea treatment protocols that feature dose escalation, to provide a feasible and effective stroke prevention program. TCD screening of African children with SCA will allow early identification of stroke risk and optimized hydroxyurea dosing, thereby reducing morbidity and mortality in this vulnerable population.

Disclosures: Aygun: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: Research Funding; bluebird bio: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees, Research Funding; Patient-Centered Outsomes Research Institute: Research Funding; National Institute of Nursing Research: Research Funding.

*signifies non-member of ASH