Leg ulcer is a disabling complication in patients with sickle cell anemia (SCA) but the exact pathophysiological mechanisms are unknown. The aim of this study was to identify the hematological and hemorheological alterations associated with recurrent leg ulcers. Sixty-two SCA patients who never experienced leg ulcers (ULC-) and 13 SCA patients with a positive history of recurrent leg ulcers (ULC+) - but with no leg ulcers at the time of the study - were recruited. All patients were in steady state condition. Blood was sampled to perform hematological, biochemical (hemolytic markers) and hemorheological analyses (blood viscosity, red blood cell deformability and aggregation properties). The hematocrit-to-viscosity ratio (HVR), which reflects the red blood cell oxygen transport efficiency, was calculated for each subject. Patients from the ULC+ group were older than patients from the ULC- group. Anemia (red blood cell count, hematocrit and hemoglobin levels) was more pronounced in the ULC+ group. Lactate dehydrogenase level was higher in the ULC+ group than in the ULC- group. Neither blood viscosity, nor RBC aggregation properties differed between the two groups. HVR was lower and RBC deformability tended to be reduced in the ULC+ group. Our study confirmed increased hemolytic rate and anemia in SCA patients with leg ulcers recurrence. Furthermore, our data suggest that although systemic blood viscosity is not a major factor involved in the pathophysiology of this complication, decreased red blood cell oxygen transport efficiency (i.e., low hematocrit/viscosity ratio) may play a role.
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