Dasia White, 6 years old, looked quizzically at the machine that was about to take her oxygen measurements, but once the nurse touched her forehead with a probe from the machine, she was OK with the whole process.
Dasia has sickle cell disease and is part of a clinical study at Children’s of cerebral oximetry, a non-invasive technique to measure the levels of oxygen in the brain. The study is led by Dr. Charles Quinn, a pediatric hematologist-oncologist at Children’s and director of the Sickle Cell Disease and Thalassemia Program.
Children with sickle cell are at high risk for stroke, a consequence of the blood disorder where sickle-shaped red blood cells tend to “stick” together. Because sickled cells do not flow readily past one another, they can more easily form clots that can cause a blockage or rupture of a blood vessel in the brain — a stroke — leading to a host of serious problems such as paralysis, speech problems and poor coordination.
By measuring oxygen levels in the left and right brain, Dr. Quinn aims to determine normal values for cerebral tissue oxygenation in children with sickle cell disease. Eventually, he hopes to find there is a connection between a lower oxygen-carrying capacity of the body’s blood and stroke.
Children’s, one of the top hematology-oncology centers in the country, sees nearly 700 patients with sickle cell each year.
Because the hospital has such a high volume of patients with the disease, we can offer research studies like Dasia’s that can help researchers to better understand the disease and perhaps one day cure it.