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Transcranial doppler and MRI scanning

Published on 07 February 2024

The service offers transcranial Doppler (TCD) and MRI scanning for children and young people with relevant haemoglobinopathy (blood) disorders. It's based in the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Glasgow.

What are transcranial Doppler and MRI scanning?

Haemoglobinopathies are a group of inherited genetic conditions that affect the haemoglobin component of blood. The most significant haemoglobinopathies result in either a change in the structure and quality of the haemoglobin (sickle cell disease – SCD) or a reduction in the quantity of haemoglobin produced (thalassaemia).

Stroke is a major cause of poor health and even death in children with sickle cell disease. Strong evidence demonstrates that early detection of any narrowing of arteries in the brain, and then providing transfusions to bring down the concentration of sickle haemoglobin, can dramatically reduce the risk of stroke.

TCD is a non-invasive ultrasound method used to examine the blood circulation within the brain. This straightforward test is useful in measuring arterial blood flow and is well tolerated by even very young children.

MRI monitoring to assess liver and cardiac iron levels is available to all children with haemoglobinopathies (sickle cell disease and thalassaemia) on regular transfusion therapy. Transfusional iron overload can be fatal. Yet, iron chelation therapy that begins early in life can prevent the complications of iron overload and improve life expectancy.

TCD is available to all eligible patients between 2 and 18 years old. MRI is available to those aged 8 to 18 years old. The TCD and MRI scanning service appointments will, as far as possible, be co-ordinated with an annual visit to provide a ‘one-stop’ service.

Further information is available on the Scottish Paediatric & Adult Haemoglobinopathy (SPAH) website.