Abnormal ventilation-perfusion scan is associated with pulmonary hypertension in sickle cell adults

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Pulmonary hypertension (PH) in adults with sickle cell disease (SCD) is associated with early mortality. Chronic thromboembolic PH (CTEPH) is an important complication and contributor to PH in SCD but is likely underappreciated. Guidelines recommend ventilation-perfusion (V/Q) scintigraphy as the imaging modality of choice to exclude CTEPH. Data on V/Q scanning are limited in SCD. Our objective was to compare the performance of V/Q scanning with that of CT pulmonary angiography (CTPA) and to report clinical outcomes associated with abnormal V/Q findings. Methods: Laboratory data, echocardiography, 6-min-walk testing, V/Q scanning, CTPA, and right heart catheterization (RHC) were prospectively obtained. High-probability and intermediate-probability V/Q findings were considered to be abnormal. Included for analysis were 142 SCD adults (aged 40.1 ± 13.7 y, 83 women, 87% hemoglobin SS) in a stable state enrolled consecutively between March 13, 2002, and June 8, 2017. Results: V/Q results were abnormal in 65 of 142 patients (45.8%). CTPA was positive for pulmonary embolism in 16 of 60 (26.7%). RHC confirmed PH (mean pulmonary artery pressure $ 25 mmHg) in 46 of 64 (71.9%), of whom 34 (73.9%) had abnormal V/Q findings. Among those without PH by RHC (n 5 18), 2 of 18 patients had abnormal V/Q findings. Thirty-three patients had a complete dataset (V/Q scanning, CTPA, and RHC); 29 of 33 had abnormal RHC findings, of whom 26 had abnormal V/Q findings, compared with 11 who had abnormal CTPA findings. There was greater concordance between V/Q findings and RHC (κ-value 5 0.53; P, 0.001) than between CTPA and RHC (κ-value 5 0.13; P 5 0.065). The sensitivity and specificity for V/Q scanning was 89.7% and 75.0%, respectively, whereas CTPA had sensitivity of 37.3% and specificity of 100%. Abnormal V/Q finding swere associated with hemodynamic severity (mean pulmonary artery pressure, 35.2 ± 9.6 vs. 26.9 ± 10.5 mm Hg, P 5 0.002; transpulmonary gradient, 21.5 ± 9.7 vs. 12.16 ± 11 mmHg, P 5 0.005; and pulmonary vascular resistance, 226.5 ± 135 vs. 140.7 ± 123.7 dynesscm −5 , P 5 0.013) and exercise capacity (6-min-walk distance, 382.8 ± 122.3 vs. 442.3 ± 110.6 m, P, 0.010). Thirty-four deaths were observed over 15 y. All-cause mortality was higher in the abnormal-V/Q group (21 [61.8%]) than in the normal-V/Q group (13 [38.2%]) (log-rank test, P 5 0.006; hazard ratio, 2.54). Conclusion: V/Q scanning is superior to CTPA in detecting thrombotic events in SCD. Abnormal V/Q findings are associated with PH, worse hemodynamics, lower functional capacity, and higher mortality. Despite high sensitivity in detecting CTEPH, V/Q scanning is underutilized. We recommend the use of V/Q scanning in the evaluation of dyspnea in adult SCD patients given the important implications toward management.

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