OBJECTIVE: To investigate the role of haematological indices, socioeconomic status, and morbidity in prepubertal growth in homozygous sickle cell (SS) disease. METHOD: Height, weight, and haematology were serially recorded in a cohort study of 315 children with SS disease from birth to 9 years at the sickle cell clinic of the University Hospital of the West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica. RESULTS: Height increment between 3 and 9 years correlated positively with total haemoglobin at age 7 years in boys but not girls. Attained height and weight at age 7 years correlated positively with haemoglobin and fetal haemoglobin in boys but not girls. Only the correlation between haemoglobin and weight showed a significant gender difference. Partial correlation analysis suggested that the effect of haemoglobin was accounted for by the effect of fetal haemolglobin and further analysis indicated that height correlated with F reticulocyte count (a measure of fetal haemoglobin production) in both sexes but not with the ratio of F cells to F reticulocytes (a measure of F cell enrichment). Growth was not significantly related to mean red cell volume, proportional reticulocyte count, alpha thalassaemia, socioeconomic status, or morbidity. CONCLUSION: A high concentration of fetal haemoglobin in boys with SS disease is associated with greater linear growth. It is postulated that in boys, low concentrations of fetal haemoglobin increase haemolysis and hence metabolic requirements for erythropoiesis, putting them at greater risk of poor growth. Differences in the relationship of haematology and growth between boys and girls with SS disease dictate that future analyses of growth take gender into account.
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