To determine the patient- and tissue-based relationships between cerebral hemodynamic and oxygen metabolic stress, microstructural injury, and infarct location in adults with sickle cell disease (SCD).
Control participants and patients with SCD underwent brain MRI to quantify cerebral blood flow (CBF), oxygen extraction fraction (OEF), mean diffusivity (MD), and fractional anisotropy (FA) within normal-appearing white matter (NAWM) and infarcts on fluid-attenuated inversion recovery. Multivariable linear regression examined the patient- and voxel-based associations between hemodynamic and metabolic stress (defined as elevated CBF and OEF, respectively), white matter microstructure, and infarct location.
Of 83 control participants and patients with SCD, adults with SCD demonstrated increased CBF (50.9 vs 38.8 mL/min/100 g, p < 0.001), increased OEF (0.35 vs 0.25, p < 0.001), increased MD (0.76 vs 0.72 x 10–3 mm2s–1, p = 0.005), and decreased FA (0.40 vs 0.42, p = 0.021) within NAWM compared to controls. In multivariable analysis, increased OEF (β = 0.19, p = 0.035), but not CBF (β = 0.00, p = 0.340), independently predicted increased MD in the SCD cohort; neither were predictors in controls. On voxel-wise regression, the SCD cohort demonstrated widespread OEF elevation, encompassing deep white matter regions of elevated MD and reduced FA, which spatially extended beyond high-density infarct locations from the SCD cohort.
Elevated OEF, a putative index of cerebral oxygen metabolic stress, may provide a metric of ischemic vulnerability that could enable individualization of therapeutic strategies in SCD. The patient- and tissue-based relationships between elevated OEF, elevated MD, and cerebral infarcts suggest that oxygen metabolic stress may underlie microstructural injury prior to the development of cerebral infarcts in SCD.