Relationship of erythropoietin, fetal hemoglobin, and hydroxyurea treatment to tricuspid regurgitation velocity in children with sickle cell disease

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Hydroxyurea and higher hemoglobin F improve the clinical course and survival in sickle cell disease, but their roles in protecting from pulmonary hypertension are not clear. We studied 399 children and adolescents with sickle cell disease at steady state; 38% were being treated with hydroxyurea. Patients on hydroxyurea had higher hemoglobin concentration and lower values for a hemolytic component derived from 4 markers of hemolysis (P ≤ .002) but no difference in tricuspid regurgitation velocity compared with those not receiving hydroxyurea; they also had higher hemoglobin F (P < .001) and erythropoietin (P = .012) levels. Hemoglobin F correlated positively with erythropoietin even after adjustment for hemoglobin concentration (P < .001). Greater hemoglobin F and erythropoietin each independently predicted higher regurgitation velocity in addition to the hemolytic component (P ≤ .023). In conclusion, increase in hemoglobin F in sickle cell disease may be associated with relatively lower tissue oxygen delivery as reflected in higher erythropoietin concentration. Greater levels of erythropoietin or hemoglobin F were independently associated with higher tricuspid regurgitation velocity after adjustment for degree of hemolysis, suggesting an independent relationship of hypoxia with higher systolic pulmonary artery pressure. The hemolysis-lowering and hemoglobin F-augmenting effects of hydroxyurea may exert countervailing influences on pulmonary blood pressure in sickle cell disease.

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