Background Large-vessel vasculopathy (LVV) increases stroke risk in pediatric sickle cell disease beyond the baseline elevated stroke risk in this vulnerable population. The mechanisms underlying this added risk and its unique impact on the developing brain are not established. Methods We analyzed magnetic resonance imaging and angiography scans of 66 children with sickle cell disease and infarcts by infarct density heatmaps and Jacobian determinants, a metric utilized to delineate focal volume change, to investigate if infarct location, volume, frequency, and cerebral atrophy differed among hemispheres with and without LVV. Results Infarct density heatmaps demonstrated infarct “hot spots” within the deep white matter internal border zone region in both LVV and non–LVV hemispheres, but with greater infarct density and larger infarct volumes in LVV hemispheres (2.2 mL versus 0.25 mL, P < 0.001). Additional scattered cortical infarcts in the internal carotid artery territory occurred in LVV hemispheres, but were rare in non–LVV hemispheres. Jacobian determinants revealed greater atrophy in gray and white matter of the parietal lobes of LVV compared with non–LVV hemispheres. Conclusion Large-vessel vasculopathy in sickle cell disease appears to increase ischemic vulnerability in the borderzone region, as demonstrated by the increased frequency and extent of infarction within deep white matter, and increased risk of focal atrophy. Scattered infarctions across the LVV–affected hemispheres suggest additional stroke etiologies of vasculopathy (i.e., thromboembolism) in addition to chronic hypoxia-ischemia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-57
Number of pages9
JournalPediatric Neurology
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017


  • MRI
  • atrophy
  • heatmap
  • infarction
  • sickle cell
  • stroke
  • vasculopathy


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