Nocturnal peripheral vasoconstriction predicts the frequency of severe acute pain episodes in children with sickle cell disease.
The basic model of SCD physiology states that vaso-occlusion occurs when hemoglobin S-containing red blood cells (RBC) undergo sickling before they escape the capillary into a larger vessel. We have shown that mental stress, pain and cold, events reported by patients to trigger SCD vaso-occlusive crisis (VOC), cause rapid and significant decrease in blood flow, reducing the likelihood that RBC could transit the microvasculature before sickling occurs. However, the critical link between decrease in microvascular blood flow and the incidence of future sickle VOC has never been established experimentally in humans. Using data from centrally adjudicated, overnight polysomnograms (PSG), previously collected in a prospective multi-center cohort sleep study, we analyzed the beat-to-beat amplitudes of vasoconstriction reported by the fingertip photoplethysmogram in 212 children and adolescents with SCD and developed an algorithm that detects vasoconstriction events and quantifies the magnitude (Mvasoc ), duration, and frequency of vasoconstriction that reflect the individual’s inherent peripheral vasoreactivity. The propensity to vasoconstrict, quantified by median Mvasoc , predicted the incidence rate of post-PSG severe acute vaso-occlusive pain events (p=0.0056) after accounting for age and hemoglobin. Indices of sleep-disordered breathing contributed to median Mvasoc but did not predict future pain rate. Median Mvasoc was not associated with vaso-occlusive pain events that occurred prior to each PSG. These results show that SCD individuals with high inherent propensity to vasoconstrict have more frequent severe acute pain events. Our empirical findings are consistent with the fundamental SCD hypothesis that decreased microvascular flow promotes microvascular occlusion. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.