Individuals with sickle cell disease (SCD) experience cognitive deficits; however, it remains unclear whether medical treatments for SCD improve cognition. Given that executive abilities are typically impaired in individuals with SCD, they were the focus of the current study. Our primary hypothesis was that executive abilities would be higher acutely soon after a blood transfusion in children and young adults with SCD. We used tests from the NIH Toolbox to assess executive abilities in 27 participants with SCD receiving chronic transfusion in comparison to 34 participants with SCD receiving hydroxyurea (HU) and 41 non-SCD demographically matched controls, all of whom were tested at two time points. Participants in the transfusion group completed cognitive testing within 3 days after a transfusion (soon after transfusion) and then within 3 days before their next transfusion (long after transfusion) over an interval of 3-7 weeks. We found that executive abilities were significantly poorer for the transfusion and HU groups than for the control group. In support of our primary hypothesis, executive abilities for the transfusion group were significantly better soon after a transfusion compared to long after a transfusion, χ2(1) = 17.8, P <.0001. Our results demonstrate that executive abilities were higher acutely following a blood transfusion. These findings have implications for daily functioning, medical decision making, and academic achievement in children and young adults with SCD.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere27899
JournalPediatric Blood and Cancer
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2019


  • cognition
  • executive abilities
  • hemoglobin
  • hydroxyurea
  • sickle cell disease
  • transfusion


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