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J Natl Med Assoc. 2002 May;94(5):320-6.

Arterialization of peripheral venous blood in sickle cell disease.

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  • 1Department of Anesthesiology, Howard University College of Medicine and Hospital, Washington, DC 20059, USA.


Arterialization of the venous blood is thought to be indicative of cutaneous shunting, and occurs in patients with sickle cell disease (SCD) during vaso-occlusive crisis (VOC). We performed the present study to quantify the amount of shunting that occurs in sickle cell patients presenting at the Howard University Sickle Cell Center, Washington, D.C., as outpatients and for hospitalizations associated with sickle cell crisis. Peripheral venous blood was drawn anaerobically into heparinized syringes from 9 normal control subjects (NC), 24 outpatients (steady-state group), and 14 inpatients during crisis (VOC group). Spectrophotometric measurements were made for the following species of hemoglobin (Hb): oxy-Hb (O2Hb), reduced Hb (RHb), carboxy-Hb (COHb), and met-Hb (MHb). In addition, fetal hemoglobin (HbF) was measured by high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC). The O2Hb saturations of the steady state group were not significantly different than those of the NC group (55 +/- 4% vs. 40 +/- 6%). However, the O2Hb saturations of the VOC group were 73 +/- 3%, and this value was found to be significantly greater than those of both the steady-state and the NC groups (p < 0.05). Reduced hemoglobin saturations were inversely related to the O2Hb values, as expected. Compared to the NC group, the steady-state, and VOC groups had greater dyshemoglobin (COHb and MHb) levels (p < 0.05). These findings suggest that the percentages of venous O2Hb and dyshemoglobins may be increased in sickle cell disease even in the absence of VOC. Therefore, the venous O2Hb saturation may be a useful biochemical marker for the arteriovenous shunting and hemodynamic adaptations associated with sickle cell disease.

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