Risk of stroke in adults with cyanotic congenital heart disease.
BACKGROUND Adults with cyanotic congenital heart disease and elevated hematocrit levels are often phlebotomized because of an assumed risk of cerebral arterial thrombotic stroke. Whether a relation exists between hematocrit level, symptomatic erythrocytosis (hyperviscosity), and stroke remains to be established in this patient population.
METHODS AND RESULTS Accordingly, 112 cyanotic patients 19-74 years old (mean, 36 +/- 11.7 years) in the UCLA Adult Congenital Heart Disease Center Registry were selected for study by virtue of continuous observation for 1-12 years (total, 748 patient-years). Patients with independent risk factors for embolic or vasospastic stroke were excluded. The study patients were then divided into two groups: 1) compensated erythrocytosis (stable hematocrit levels of 46.0-72.7% [mean, 57.5 +/- 7.2%], iron replete, absent or mild hyperviscosity symptoms), and 2) decompensated erythrocytosis (unstable rising hematocrit levels of 61.5-75.0% [mean, 69.5 +/- 10.6%], iron deficiency, marked-to-severe hyperviscosity symptoms). No patient with either compensated or decompensated erythrocytosis, irrespective of hematocrit level, iron stores, or the presence, degree, or recurrence of cerebral hyperviscosity symptoms, progressed to clinical evidence of a complete stroke (cerebral arterial thrombosis with brain infarction).
CONCLUSIONS Because a risk of stroke caused by cerebral arterial thrombosis was not demonstrated, because the circulatory effects of phlebotomy are transient, and because of the untoward sequelae of phlebotomy-induced iron deficiency, we recommend phlebotomy for the temporary relief of significant, intrusive hyperviscosity symptoms but not for the hematocrit level per se. According to our data, phlebotomy is not warranted to reduce an assumed risk of stroke because that risk did not materialize.
- Copyright © 1993 by American Heart Association