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Division of Blood Diseases and Resources
H E A R T,
L U N G ,
National Heart, Lung,
and Blood Institute
Division of Blood Diseases
and Resources
N O . 02-2117
Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . V
Contributors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . VII
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
World Wide Web Resources. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Neonatal Screening . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Sickle Cell Trait. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Genetic Counseling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Child Health Care Maintenance. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Adolescent Health Care and Transitions . . . . . . . . . . .
Adult Health Care Maintenance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Coordination of Care: Role of Mid-Level Practitioners
Psychosocial Management . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53
Pain . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59
Infection. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75
Transient Red Cell Aplasia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81
Stroke and Central Nervous System Disease . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83
Sickle Cell Eye Disease . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95
Cardiovascular Manifestations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99
Acute Chest Syndrome and Other Pulmonary Complications . . . . . . . . . . . 103
Gall Bladder and Liver . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111
Splenic Sequestration. . . . . . . . . .
Renal Abnormalities in Sickle Cell
Priapism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Bones and Joints . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Leg Ulcers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Contraception and Pregnancy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 145
Anesthesia and Surgery . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149
Transfusion, Iron Overload, and Chelation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 153
Fetal Hemoglobin Induction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161
Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 167
Genetic Modulation of Phenotype by Epistatic Genes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 173
Highlights from Federally Funded Studies. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 181
Enclosed is the fourth edition of a book that
is dedicated to the medical and social issues of
individuals with sickle cell disease. This publication, which was developed by physicians,
nurses, psychologists, and social workers who
specialize in the care of children and adults
with sickle cell disease, describes the current
approach to counseling and also to management of many of the medical complications
of sickle cell disease.
Each chapter was prepared by one or more
experts and then reviewed by several others
in the field. Additional experts reviewed the
entire volume. This book is not the result of a
formalized consensus process but rather represents the efforts of those who have dedicated
their professional careers to the care of individuals with sickle cell disease. The names of
the authors, their affiliations, and their e-mail
addresses are listed in the front of the book.
Multiple new therapies are now available for
children and adults with sickle cell disease,
and often the options to be chosen present
a dilemma for both patients and physicians.
This book does not provide answers to many
of these newer questions but rather explains
the choices available. The book, which focuses
primarily on the basic management of indiv-
iduals with sickle cell disease and provides
relevant online resources at the end of the
chapters, is to serve as an adjunct to recent
textbooks that delve more deeply into all
aspects of the disorder.
The authors hope that this book will be used
by medical students, house staff, general practitioners, specialists, nurses, social workers, psychologists, and other professionals as well as
the families and patients who are coping with
the complexities of sickle cell disease on a daily
basis. The book, any part of which can be
copied freely, will be placed on the National
Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
Web site and will be updated as needed.
Research is essential to provide the knowledge
required to improve the care of individuals
with sickle cell disease, but it is the physicians
and other health care personnel who must
ensure that the very best care is actually
delivered to each child and adult who has
this disorder. We hope that this book will
help to achieve this goal.
Claude Lenfant, M.D.
Director, NHLBI
Robert Adams, M.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Neurology
Room HB-2060
Medical College of Georgia
Augusta, GA 30912
(706) 721-4670
(706) 721-6757
E-mail: [email protected]
Kenneth I. Ataga, M.D.
Division of Hematology/Oncology
CB# 7305, 3009 Old Clinic Building
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7305
(919) 843-7708
E-mail: [email protected]
Harold Ballard, M.D.
Assistant Chief, Hematology Division
New York Veterans Administration
Medical Services, 12th Floor
New York, NY 10010
(212) 951-3484
(212) 951-5981
Lennette Benjamin, M.D.
Associate Professor of Medicine
Montefiore Hospital Medical Center
Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center
111 East 210th Street
Bronx, NY 10467-2490
(718) 920-7375
(718) 798-5095
E-mail: [email protected]
Henny Billett, M.D.
Director, Clinical Hematology
Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center
Montefiore Hospital Medical Center
111 East 210th Street
Bronx, NY 10467
(718) 920-7373
(718) 920-5095
E-mail: [email protected]
E-mail: [email protected]
Carine Boehme, M.S.
Associate Professor
The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
CMSC Room 1004
600 North Wolfe Street
Baltimore, MD 21287-9278
(410) 955-0483
(410) 955-0484
E-mail: [email protected]
Kenneth Bridges, M.D.
Associate Professor of Medicine
Director, Joint Center for Sickle Cell
and Thrombosis and Hemostasis Disorders
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Harvard Medical School
75 Francis Street
Boston, MA 02115
(617) 732-5842
(617) 975-0876
E-mail: [email protected]
Oswaldo Castro, M.D.
Professor of Medicine/Pediatrics
Howard University School of Medicine
Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center
2121 Georgia Avenue, NW
Washington DC 20059
(202) 806-7930
(202) 806-4517
E-mail: [email protected]
Joseph DeSimone, Ph.D.
VA West Side Medical Center
Hematology Research (151C)
820 South Damen Avenue
Chicago, IL 60612
(312) 666-6500 x2683
(312) 455-5877
E-mail: [email protected]
Samuel Charache, M.D.
2006 South Road
Baltimore, MD 21209-4510
(410) 466-6405
(410) 466-4330
E-mail: [email protected]
Ann Earles, R.N., P.N.P.
Research Nurse
Children’s Hospital of Oakland
747 52nd Street
Oakland, CA 94609-1809
(510) 428-3453
(510) 450-5635
E-mail: [email protected]
Wesley Covitz, M.D.
Professor of Pediatrics
Wake Forest School of Medicine
Medical Center Boulevard
Winston-Salem, NC 27157-1081
(336) 716-4267
(336) 716-0533
E-mail: [email protected]
Gary R. Cutter, Ph.D.
Professor of Medicine
Director, Center for Research Design
and Statistical Methods
UNR School of Medicine, Mail Stop 199
Reno, Nevada 89557
(775) 784-1565
(775) 784-1142
E-mail: [email protected]
Carlton Dampier, M.D.
Director, Marian Anderson SCC
St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children
Erie Avenue at Front Street
Philadelphia, PA 19134
(215) 427-5096
(215) 427-6684
E-mail: [email protected]
James Eckman, M.D.
Professor of Medicine
Emory University School of Medicine
69 Butler Street
Atlanta, GA 30303
(404) 616-5982
(404) 577-9107
E-mail: [email protected]
Morton Goldberg, M.D.
Director, Department of Ophthalmology
The Johns Hopkins Hospital
The Wilmer Ophthamological Institute
Maumanee Building, Room 729
600 North Wolfe Street
Baltimore, MD 21287-9278
(410) 955-6846
(410) 955-0675
E-mail: [email protected]
Harry E. Jergesen, M.D.
Department of Orthopaedic Surgery
University of California, San Francisco
500 Parnassus Avenue, MU-320W
San Francisco, CA 94143
(415) 476-8938
(415) 476-1301
E-mail: [email protected]
Cage Johnson, M.D.
Professor of Medicine
University of Southern California
2025 Zonal Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90033
(323) 442-1259
(323) 442-1255
E-mail: [email protected]
Adrena Johnson-Telfair, P.A.C.
Associate Director for Clinical Services
University of Alabama at Birmingham
Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center
1900 University Boulevard
513 Tinsley Harrison
Birmingham, AL 35294-0006
(205) 975-2281
(205) 975-5264
E-mail: [email protected]
Clinton Joiner, M.D., Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Pediatrics
Director, Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center
Children’s Hospital Medical Center
3333 Burnett Avenue, OSB 4
Cincinnati, OH 45229-3039
(513) 636-4541
(513) 636-5562
E-mail: [email protected]
John Kark, M.D.
Professor, Hematology/Oncology
Howard University Hospital
5145 Tower Building
2041 Georgia Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20060
(202) 865-1511
(202) 865-4607
E-mail: [email protected]
Mabel Koshy, M.D.
University of Illinois
840 South Wood Street
MSC 787, Room 833
Chicago, IL 60612
(312) 996-5680
(312) 996-5984
Peter Lane, M.D.
Director, Colorado Sickle Cell Treatment
and Research Center
Campus Box C-222
University of Colorado Health Sciences Center
4200 East Ninth Avenue
Denver, CO 80262
(303) 372-9070
(303) 372-9161
E-mail: [email protected]
Dimitris Loukopoulos, M.D., D.Sci.
First Department of Medicine
University of Athens School of Medicine
Laikon Hospital
Athens 11527 GREECE
+30 1 7771 161
+30 1 7295 065
E-mail: [email protected]
Bertram Lubin, M.D.
Director of Medical Research
Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute
5700 Martin Luther King Junior Way
Oakland, CA 94609
(510) 450-7601
(510) 450-7910
E-mail: [email protected]
Elysse Mandell, M.S.N.
Division of Hematology
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
75 Francis Street
Boston, MA 02115
(617) 732-8485
(617) 975-0876
E-mail: [email protected]
Vipul Mankad, M.D.
Professor and Chairman
Kentucky Clinic, Room J406
University of Kentucky
Chandler Medical Center
Lexington, KY 40536-0284
(859) 323-5481
(859) 257-7706
E-mail: [email protected]
Marie Mann, M.D., M.P.H.
Deputy Chief, Genetic Services Branch
Maternal and Child Health Bureau
Health Resources and Services Administration
5600 Fishers Lane
Rockville, MD 20857
(301) 443-4925
(301) 443-8604
E-mail: [email protected]
Orah Platt, M.D.
Director, Department of Laboratory Medicine
Enders Research Building, Room 761
Children’s Hospital Medical Center
320 Longwood Avenue
Boston, MA 02146
(617) 355-6347
(617) 713-4347
E-mail: [email protected]
Ronald Nagel, M.D.
Head, Division of Hematology
Albert Einstein College of Medicine
1300 Morris Park Avenue
Bronx, NY 10461
(718) 430-2186
(718) 824-3153
E-mail: [email protected]
Sonya Ross, B.S.
Director of Program Development
Sickle Cell Disease Association of America
P.O. Box 1956
Baltimore, MD 21203
(410) 363-7711
(410) 363-4052
E-mail: [email protected]
Ms. Kathy Norcott
Sickle Cell Disease Association of the Piedmont
P.O. Box 20964
Greensboro, NC 27420
(336) 274-1507 or (800) 733-8299
E-mail: [email protected]
Frank Shafer, M.D.
St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children
Erie Avenue at Front Street
Philadelphia, PA 19134
(215) 427-4399
(215) 427-6684
E-mail: [email protected]
Kwaku Ohene-Frempong, M.D.
Director, Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
324 South 34th Street and Civic Center Boulevard
Philadelphia, PA 19104
(215) 590-3423
(215) 590-3992
E-mail: [email protected]
Eugene Orringer, M.D.
Professor of Medicine
Director, Comprehensive Sickle Cell Program
University of North Carolina
125 MacNider Building
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7000
(919) 843-9485
(919) 216-3602
E-mail: [email protected]
Jeanne Smith, M.D.
Associate Professor of Clinical Research
Columbia University Comprehensive
Sickle Cell Center
Suite 6164
506 Lenox Avenue at 135th Street
New York, NY 10037
(212) 939-1701
(212) 939-1692
E-mail: [email protected]
Kim Smith-Whitley, M.D.
Associate Director for Clinic Sickle Cell Program
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
324 South 34th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
(215) 590-1662
(215) 590-5992
E-mail: [email protected]
Martin Steinberg, M.D.
Director, Center for Excellence in Sickle Cell Disease
Boston Medical Center
88 East Newton Street
Boston, MA 02118
(617) 414-1020
(617) 414-1021
E-mail: [email protected]
Marie Stuart, M.D.
Professor of Pediatrics
Division of Pediatric Hematology
Thomas Jefferson University
1025 Walnut Street, Suite 727
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 955-9820
(215) 955-8011
E-mail: [email protected]
Paul Swerdlow, M.D.
Director of Red Cell Disorders
Associate Professor, Wayne State University
Harper Hospital, 4 Brush South
Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute
3990 John R St.
Detroit, MI 48201
(313) 745-9669
(313) 993-0307
E-mail: [email protected]
Joseph Telfair, Dr.P.H., M.S.W., M.P.H.
Department of Maternal and Child Health
School of Public Health
University of Alabama at Birmingham
320 Royals Building
1665 University Boulevard
Birmingham, AL 35294-0022
(205) 934-1371
(205) 934-8248
E-mail: [email protected]
Tim Townes, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Biochemistry
and Molecular Genetics
Schools of Medicine and Dentistry
University of Alabama at Birmingham
BBRB 260
1530 3rd Avenue South
Birmingham, AL 35294-0022
(205) 934-5294
(205) 934-2889
E-mail: [email protected]
Marsha Treadwell, Ph.D.
Hematology Behavioral Services Coordinator
Children’s Hospital Oakland
747 52nd Street
Oakland, CA 94609-1809
(510) 428-3356
(510) 428-3973
E-mail: [email protected]
Elliott Vichinsky, M.D.
Division Head, Hematology/Oncology
Director, Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center
Children’s Hospital of Oakland
747 52nd Street
Oakland, CA 94609-1809
(510) 420-3651
(510) 450-5647
E-mail: [email protected]
Mark Walters, M.D.
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
100 Fairview Avenue North, C1-169
P.O. Box 10924
Seattle, WA 98109-1024
(206) 667-4103
(206) 667-6084
E-mail: [email protected]
Winfred Wang, M.D.
Department of Hematology/Oncology
St. Jude’s Children’s Research Center
P.O. Box 318
32 North Lauderdale
Memphis, TN 38101
(901) 495-3497
(901) 521-9005
E-mail: [email protected]
Russell Ware, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor of Pediatrics
Duke University Medical Center
Box 2916 DUMC
R-133 MSRB, Research Drive
Durham, NC 27710
(919) 684-5665
(919) 684-5752
E-mail: [email protected]
Doris Wethers, M.D.
1201 Cabrini Boulevard
Apartment #57
New York, NY 10033
(212) 928-2600
E-mail: [email protected]
Charles Whitten, M.D.
President Emeritus, Sickle Cell Disease Association
of America
Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics and Associate Dean
Wayne State University School of Medicine
Scott Hall, Room 1201
540 East Canfield Street
Detroit, MI 48201
(313) 577-1546
(313) 577-1330
E-mail: [email protected]
Wanda Whitten-Shurney, M.D.
Attending Pediatrician
Children’s Hospital of Michigan
3901 Beaubien Boulevard
Detroit, MI 48201
(313) 745-5613
(313) 745-5237
E-mail: [email protected]
Nevada Winrow, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow
9624 Devedente Drive
Owings Mills, MD 21117
(240) 601-8683
(410) 902-3457
E-mail: [email protected]
Robert Yamashita, Ph.D.
Interdisciplinary Studies in Science and Society
Liberal Studies Department
California State University
San Marcos, CA 92096-0001
(760) 750-4204
E-mail: [email protected]
Barbara Alving, M.D.
Deputy Director
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Building 31, Room 5A47, MSC 2490
31 Center Drive
Bethesda, MD 20892-2490
(301) 594-5171
(301) 402-0818
E-mail: [email protected]
Griffin Rodgers, M.D.
Deputy Director
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive
Kidney Diseases
Building 31, Room 9A52, MSC 1822
31 Center Drive
Bethesda, MD 20892-1822
(301) 496-5741
(301) 402-2125
E-mail: [email protected]
Henry Chang, M.D.
Health Scientist Administrator
Division of Blood Diseases and Resources
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
6701 Rockledge Drive, MSC 7950
Bethesda, MD 20892-7950
(301) 435-0065
(301) 480-0867
E-mail: [email protected]
Charles Peterson, M.D.
Director, Division of Blood Diseases and Resources
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
6701 Rockledge Drive, MSC 7950
Bethesda, MD 20892-7950
(301) 435-0080
(301) 480-0867
E-mail: [email protected]
Duane Bonds, M.D.
Health Scientist Administrator
Sickle Cell Disease Scientific Research Group
Division of Blood Diseases and Resources
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
6701 Rockledge Drive, MSC 7950
Bethesda, MD 20892-7950
(301) 435-0055
(301) 480-0868
E-mail: [email protected]
Greg Evans, Ph.D.
Health Scientist Administrator
Division of Blood Diseases and Resources
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
6701 Rockledge Drive, MSC 7950
Bethesda, MD 20892-7950
(301) 435-0055
(301) 480-0868
E-mail: [email protected]
Petronella Barrow
Office Manager
Division of Blood Diseases and Resources
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
6701 Rockledge Drive, MSC 7950
Bethesda, MD 20892-7950
(301) 435-0080
(301) 480-0867
E-mail: [email protected]
Kathy Brasier
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Building 31, Room 5A47, MSC 2490
Bethesda, MD 20892-2490
(301) 496-1078
(301) 402-0818
E-mail: [email protected]
David Bodine, Ph.D.
Chief, Hematopoiesis Section
Genetics and Molecular Biology Branch
National Human Genome Research Institute,
Building 49, Room 3W16, MSC 4442
Bethesda, MD 20892-4442
(301) 402-0902
(301) 402-4929
E-mail: [email protected]
Jonelle Drugan, Ph.D.
Program Analyst
Office of Science and Technology
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Building 31, Room 5A06, MSC 2482
Bethesda, MD 20892-2482
(301) 402-3423
(301) 402-1056
E-mail: [email protected]
This edition of The Management of Sickle
Cell Disease (SCD) is organized into four
parts: Diagnosis and Counseling, Health
Maintenance, Treatment of Acute and Chronic
Complications, and Special Topics. The original intent was to incorporate evidence-based
medicine into each chapter, but there was
variation among evidence-level scales, and
some authors felt recommendations could
be made, based on accepted practice, without
formal trials in this rare disorder.
The best evidence still is represented by randomized, controlled trials (RCTs), but variations exist in their design, conduct, endpoints,
and analyses. It should be emphasized that
selected people enter a trial, and results should
apply in practice specifically to populations
with the same characteristics as those in
the trial. Randomization is used to reduce
imbalances between groups, but unexpected
factors sometimes may confound analysis or
interpretation. In addition, a trial may last
only a short period of time, but long-term
clinical implications may exist. Another issue
is treatment variation, for example, a new
pneumococcal vaccine developed after the
trial, which has not been tested formally in
a sickle cell population. Earlier trial results
may be accepted, based on the assumption
that the change is small.
In some cases, RCTs cannot be done satisfactorily (e.g., for ethical reasons, an insufficient
number of patients, or a lack of objective
measures for sickle cell “crises”). Thus the
bulk of clinical experience in SCD still
remains in the moderately strong and weaker
categories of evidence.
Not everyone has an efficacious outcome in
a clinical trial, and the frequency of adverse
events, such as with long-term transfusion
programs or hematopoietic transplants, might
not be considered. Thus, an assessment of
benefit-to-risk ratio should enter into translation of evidence levels into practice recommendations. A final issue is that there may be two
alternative approaches that are competitive
(e.g., transfusions and hydroxyurea). In this
case the pros and cons of each course of treatment should be discussed with the patient.
The practice guidelines best supported
by scientific evidence are:
Penicillin prophylaxis prevents pneumococcal sepsis in children [evidence from
Prophylactic Penicillin Studies I and II
(PROPS I & II)].
Pneumococcal vaccine prevents
pneumococcal infection in children.
In surgical settings, simple transfusions
to increase hemoglobin (Hb) levels to 10
g/dL are as good as or safer than aggressive
transfusions to reduce sickle hemoglobin
(Hb S) levels to below 30 percent.
Transfusions to maintain a hematocrit
of more than 36 percent do not reduce
complications of pregnancy.
Transfusions to reduce Hb S levels to
below 30 percent prevent strokes in children with high central nervous system
blood flow [evidence from the Stroke
Prevention Trial in Sickle Cell Anemia
(STOP I)].
Hydroxyurea decreases crises in patients
with severe sickle cell disease [evidence
from the Multicenter Study of Hydroxyurea
in Sickle Cell Anemia (MSH) trial].
The following nomenclature, derived from the Council of Regional Networks for Genetic Services
(CORN) guidelines for the U.S. newborn screening system [Pass KA, Lane PA, Fernhoff PM, et al.
U.S. newborn screening system guidelines II: Follow-up of children, diagnosis, management, and
evaluation. Statement of the Council of Regional Networks for Genetic Services (CORN). J Pediatr
2000;(4 Suppl):S1-46], is used throughout this book:
Full Name
Sickle cell disease-SS
βs / βc
Sickle cell disease-SC
βs / β+ thalassemia
SCD-S βo thal
Sickle cell disease-S β+ thalassemia
SCD-S β+ thal
Sickle cell disease-S
Sickle Cell Disease Association of America (SCDAA)
A patient advocacy site with information for the public.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Hemoglobin S Allele and Sickle Cell Disease
An excellent article about sickle cell genetics and epidemiology.
The Comprehensive Sickle Cell Centers
A description of a major clinical research program supported by the NHLBI.
Harvard Sickle Cell Program
A comprehensive source for information for patients and health care providers.
The Sickle Cell Information Center
A broad range of information for the public and professionals.
National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc.
A portal for all rare diseases.
ClinicalTrials.gov—Linking Patients to Medical Research
A search engine for clinical trials in different diseases.
The National Newborn Screening and Genetics Resource Center (NNSGRC)
Information and resources for health professionals, the public health community, consumers
and government officials.
Genetic Alliance
A support organization for different genetic problems.
Chapter 1: World Wide Web Resources
Mid-Atlantic Regional Human Genetics Network (MARHGN)
Genetic services for Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia,
and the District of Columbia.
Mountain States Genetics Network
Genetic services for Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.
Pacific Northwest Regional Genetics Group (PacNoRGG)
Genetic services for Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.
Southeastern Regional Genetics Group (SERGG)
Genetic services for the Southeastern region: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana,
Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
Texas Genetics Network (TEXGENE)
Genetic services for Texas.
The demonstration in 1986 that prophylactic
penicillin markedly reduces the incidence of
pneumococcal sepsis (1) provided a powerful
incentive for the widespread implementation
of neonatal screening for sickle cell disease
(SCD) (2). Neonatal screening, when linked
to timely diagnostic testing, parental education, and comprehensive care, markedly
reduces morbidity and mortality from
SCD in infancy and early childhood (2-11).
Approximately 2,000 infants with SCD are
identified annually by U.S. neonatal screening programs (12,13). Screening also identifies infants with other hemoglobinopathies,
hemoglobinopathy carriers, and in some
states, infants with α-thalassemia syndromes.
Forty-four states, the District of Columbia,
Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands currently
provide universal screening for SCD.
Screening is available by request in the other
six states. The majority of screening programs
use isoelectric focusing (IEF) of an eluate from
the dried blood spots that also are used to
screen for hypothyroidism, phenylketonuria,
and other disorders (13-15). A few programs
use high-performance liquid chromatography
(HPLC) or cellulose acetate electrophoresis as
the initial screening method. Most programs
retest abnormal screening specimens using
a second, complementary electrophoretic
technique, HPLC, immunologic tests, or
DNA-based assays (13-15).
The sensitivity and specificity of current
screening methodology are excellent (11), but
neonatal screening systems are not foolproof.
A few infants, even in states with universal
screening, may not be screened. Other infants
with SCD may go undiscovered because of
extreme prematurity, blood transfusion prior
to screening, mislabeled specimens, clerical
errors in the laboratory, or the inability to
locate affected infants after discharge from
the nursery (5,14,16-20). It is imperative that
all infants, including those born at home, be
screened and that the initial screening test
always be obtained prior to any blood transfusion, regardless of gestational or postnatal age.
Information requested on screening forms
should be recorded accurately and completely
to facilitate the followup of positive screening
tests and interpretation of results. In states
that have not yet implemented universal
screening, neonatal screening for SCD should
be requested for all high-risk infants (those
of African, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern,
Indian, Caribbean, and South and Central
American ancestry). Any high-risk infant
not screened at birth, or for whom neonatal
screening results cannot be documented,
should be screened for hemoglobinopathies
prior to 2 months of age.
Hemoglobins (Hb) identified by neonatal
screening are generally reported in order of
quantity. Because more fetal hemoglobin (Hb
F) than normal adult hemoglobin (Hb A) is
present at birth, most normal infants show
Hb FA. Infants with hemoglobinopathies also
Chapter 2: Neonatal Screening
show a predominance of Hb F at birth. Those
with SCD show Hb S in absence of Hb A
(FS), Hb S with another hemoglobin variant
(e.g., FSC, FSDPunjab), or a quantity of Hb S
greater then Hb A (FSA). Hundreds of other
Hb variants may also be identified. Most of
these variants are associated with few or no
clinical consequences, but some are associated
with significant anemia or other problems.
Many screening programs also detect and
report Hb Bart’s, indicative of α-thalassemia.
As shown in table 1, a number of different
neonatal screening results may be indicative
of sickle cell disease (14,21). Hb FS in infancy
is associated with a variety of genotypes with
a wide range of clinical severity. Most infants
with screening results that show Hb FS have
SCD-SS, but other possible conditions include
sickle βo-thalassemia, sickle δβ-thalassemia,
and sickle HPFH. Some infants with sickle
β+-thalassemia also show FS screening results
when the quantity of Hb A at birth is insufficient for detection (22). The coinheritance of
α-thalassemia may complicate differentiation
of genotypes in some infants (23). For infants
with positive screening tests, confirmatory
testing of a second blood sample should be
accomplished by 2 months of age so that
parental education, prophylactic penicillin,
and comprehensive care can be promptly
implemented (11,14). In many states, confirmatory testing is provided by the screening
program using hemoglobin electrophoresis
(cellulose acetate and citrate agar), IEF,
HPLC, and/or DNA-based methods.
Solubility tests to detect Hb S are inappropriate screening or confirmatory tests, in part
because high levels of fetal hemoglobin (i.e.,
low concentrations of Hb S) give false-negative results in infants with SCD.
Hemolytic anemia and clinical signs and
symptoms of SCD are rare before 2 months
of age and develop variably thereafter as Hb F
levels decline (table 1). Thus for infants with
an FS phenotype, serial complete blood counts
(CBCs) and reticulocyte counts may not clarify the diagnosis during early infancy, and testing of parents or DNA analysis may be helpful
in selected cases (14). In all cases, infants with
Hb FS should be started on prophylactic penicillin by 2 months of age, and parents should
be educated about the importance of urgent
medical evaluation and treatment for febrile
illness and for signs and symptoms indicative
of splenic sequestration (11,14).
Achieving an optimal outcome for each
affected infant is a significant public health
challenge. State public health agencies should
have a responsibility to ensure the availability,
quality, and integration of all five components
of the neonatal screening system: screening,
follow-up, diagnostic testing, disease management and treatment, and evaluation of the
entire system (12-15). To be beneficial,
screening, follow-up, and diagnosis of sickle
cell disease must be followed by prompt referral to knowledgeable providers of comprehensive care (2,11). Comprehensive care includes
ongoing patient and family education about
disease complications and treatment, diseasespecific health maintenance services including
pneumococcal immunizations and prophylactic penicillin, access to timely and appropriate
treatment of acute illness, nondirective genetic counseling, and psychosocial support (14).
The extent to which these services are provided directly by public health agencies or by
other clinics and providers will vary among
states and communities. However, all states
should have the responsibility to ensure
that each infant and family with SCD
receive appropriate services and to conduct
Table 1. Sickle Hemoglobinopathies: Neonatal Screening and Diagnostic Test Results
% of U.S.
Hb separation
by 2 months
of age1
Serial CBC,
dot blot
Hematologic studies by 2 years
Hb A23
Hb F
Hb F
Hemolysis and anemia
by 6-12 months
N or ↑4
Mild or no anemia
by 2 years
N or ↓
Not applicable6
βs βc
β+ thal
FSA or FS7
Mild or no anemia
by 2 years
N or ↓
Not applicable6
βA βs
βo thal
Hemolysis and anemia
by 6-12 months
βA βs
δβ thal
Mild anemia by
2 years
No hemolysis
or anemia
N or ↓
Hb = hemoglobin, MCV = mean cell volume, thal = thalassemia, N = normal, ↑ = increased, ↓ = decreased, HPFH = hereditary persistance of Hb F.
Table shows typical results—exceptions occur. Some rare genotypes (eg. SDPunjab, SO Arab, SC Harlem, S Lepore, SE) not included.
1. Hemoglobins reported in order of quantity (e.g. FSA = F>S>A).
2. Normal MCV: >70 at 6-12 months, >72 at 1-2 years.
3. Hb A2 results vary somewhat depending on laboratory methodology.
4. Hb SS with co-existent α-thalassemia may show ↓MCV and Hb A2 >3.6 percent; however, neonatal screening results from such infants usually show Hb Bart’s.
5. Quantity of Hb A2 can not be measured by hemoglobin electrophoresis or column chromatography in presence of Hb C.
6. Test not indicated.
7. Quantity of Hb A at birth sometimes insufficient for detection.
Chapter 2: Neonatal Screening
a continuing program of long-term followup
(12,14,15). Providers may be asked to supply
public health agencies with the followup data
needed for tracking and outcomes evaluation.
As shown in table 2, neonatal screening identifies some infants with non-sickle hemoglobinopathies (14,25-30). Infants with Hb F
only may be normal infants who do not yet
show Hb A because of prematurity or may
have β-thalassemia major or another thalassemia syndrome. Infants without Hb A
need repeat testing to identify those with SCD
and other hemoglobinopathies. Homozygous
β-thalassemia may cause severe transfusiondependent anemia. Infants with FE [Hb F +
hemoglobin E (Hb E)] require family studies,
DNA analysis, or repeated hematologic evaluation during the first 1 to 2 years of life to differentiate homozygous Hb E, which is asymptomatic, from Hb E βo-thalassemia, which
is variably severe (26-29). It is important
to note that most infants with β-thalassemia
syndromes (i.e., β-thalassemia minor and βthalassemia intermediate) are not identified
by neonatal screening.
The red cells of newborns with α-thalassemia
contain Hb Bart’s, a tetramer of γ-globin.
Many, but not all, neonatal screening programs
detect and report Hb Bart’s (14,25,31,32).
As shown in table 3, infants with Hb Bart’s
at birth may be silent carriers or have α-thalassemia minor, Hb H disease, or Hb H
Constant Spring disease. Silent carriers, the
largest group with Hb Bart’s at birth, have
a normal CBC. Persons with α-thalassemia
minor generally show a decreased mean cell
volume (MCV) with mild or no anemia.
Newborns with more than 10 percent hemoglobin Bart’s by IEF or more than 30 percent
hemoglobin Bart’s by HPLC or those who
develop more severe anemia need extensive
diagnostic testing and consultation with a
pediatric hematologist to accurately diagnose
and appropriately treat more serious forms
of α-thalassemia such as Hb H disease or Hb
H Constant Spring disease (33). The identification of Hb Bart’s in Asian infants may have
important genetic implications because subsequent family testing may identify couples at
risk for pregnancies complicated by hydrops
fetalis (14,25,34).
Approximately fifty infants who are carriers
of hemoglobin variants (i.e., hemoglobin traits)
are identified for every one with SCD (14).
The screening laboratory can usually confirm
the carrier state by using a complementary
methodology. Some programs recommend
confirmation of carriers by testing a second
specimen from the infant.
Carriers are generally asymptomatic (table 4),
and thus identification is of no immediate
benefit to the infant. However, parents are
entitled to the information and can benefit
from knowing the child’s carrier status, in part
because the information may influence their
reproductive decision-making. Therefore, parents of infants who are detected to be carriers
through neonatal screening should be offered
education and testing for themselves and their
extended family (2,11,14). Such testing may
raise concerns about mistaken paternity and
should not be performed without prior discussion with the mother. Testing of potential carriers requires a CBC and hemoglobin separation by hemoglobin electrophoresis, IEF, or
HPLC. To identify those with β-thalassemia,
Table 2. Non-Sickle Hemoglobinopathies Identified by Neonatal Screening*
Screening Results
Possible Condition
Clinical Manifestations
F only
Premature Infant
Repeat screening necessary
Homozygous βο-thalassemia
Severe thalassemia
Microcytosis with mild or no anemia
E βο-thalassemia
Mild to severe anemia
Mild microcytic hemolytic anemia
C βο-thalassemia
Mild microcytic hemolytic anemia
C β+-thalassemia
Mild microcytic hemolytic anemia
*Other, less common hemoglobins, also may be identified.
Table 3. Alpha-Thalassemia Syndromes Identified by Neonatal Screening
Screening Results
Possible Condition
Clinical Manifestations
α-thalassemia silent carrier
Normal CBC
α-thalassemia minor
Microcytosis with mild or no anemia
Hb H disease
Mild to moderately severe
microcytic hemolytic anemia
Hb H Constant Spring
Moderately severe hemolytic anemia
α-thalassemia with
Clinical manifestations, if any, depend on
structural Hb variant
the structural variant (e.g., Hb E) and severity
of α-thalassemia
Chapter 2: Neonatal Screening
Table 4. Hemoglobinopathy Carriers Identified by Neonatal Screening
Screening Results
Possible Condition
Clinical Manifestations
Sickle cell trait
Normal CBC
Generally asymptomatic (see chapter 3)
Hb C carrier
No anemia
Hb E carrier
Normal or slightly ↓ MCV without anemia
FA Other
Other Hb variant carrier
Depends on variant; most without clinical
or hematologic manifestations
accurate quantitation of Hb A2 by column
chromatography or HPLC and of Hb F by
alkali denaturation, radial immune diffusion,
or HPLC is also needed if the MCV is borderline or decreased.
Many of the more than 600 known hemoglobin variants are detected by current neonatal
screening methods. Many are rare, and most
are not identifiable by neonatal screening or
clinical laboratories. Each year more than
10,000 infants with unidentified hemoglobin
variants are detected by U.S. neonatal screening
programs (13,35). The definitive identification
of these variants is accomplished for fewer
than 500 of these infants, in part because of
limited reference laboratory capacity. Most
infants are heterozygotes, and most will have
no clinical or hematologic manifestations.
However, some variants, particularly unstable
hemoglobins or those with altered oxygen
affinity, may be associated with clinical
manifestations even in heterozygotes. Other
variants have no clinical consequences in
heterozygous or homozygous individuals, but
may cause SCD when coinherited with Hb S,
and thus have potential clinical and genetic
implications (21).
Followup of these infants is problematic,
in part because uncertainty may cause frustration and anxiety for parents and health care
providers. No national consensus has yet been
produced to guide neonatal screening programs and clinicians in the followup of infants
with unidentified hemoglobin variants. The
following approaches may be considered. If
the infant is a heterozygote (i.e., the quantity
of Hb A is equal to or greater than the quantity of the unidentified hemoglobin), the infant
is well (without anemia or neonatal jaundice),
and the family history is negative for anemia
or hemolysis, then no further hematologic
evaluation may be necessary.
Alternatively, some recommend repeat IEF,
HPLC or hemoglobin electrophoresis and/or
obtaining a CBC, reticulocyte count, and
peripheral smear for red cell morphology
between 6 and 12 months of age. Fetal hemoglobin (γ−globin) variants disappear by 1 year
of age, and the absence of anemia or hemolysis
may be reassuring for parents of infants with
hemoglobin variants that persist (α- or β-globin variants). For some families, it may be
appropriate to offer hemoglobin electrophoresis,
IEF, or HPLC and/or CBC, blood smear, and
reticulocyte counts on parents. Infants with
clinical or laboratory evidence of hemolysis
or abnormal oxygen affinity and those without
Hb A, especially compound heterozygotes
with Hb S, require definitive hemoglobin
identification (21,36,37). This may require
protein sequencing, DNA analysis, or HPLC
combined with electrospray mass spectrometry
in a specialized reference laboratory (38).
Identification of the hemoglobin variant to
clarify genetic risks should also be considered
for families in which another hemoglobin
variant (e.g., Hb S) is present.
Gaston MH, Verter JI, Woods G, et al.
Prophylaxis with oral penicillin in children with
sickle cell anemia. A randomized trial. N Engl J
Med 1986;314:1593-9.
Consensus Development Panel, National
Institutes of Health. Newborn screening for
sickle cell disease and other hemoglobinopathies.
JAMA 1987;258:1205-9.
Powars D, Overturf G, Weiss J, et al.
Pneumococcal septicemia in children with
sickle cell anemia. Changing trend of survival.
JAMA 1981;245:1839-42.
Vichinsky E, Hurst D, Earles A, et al. Newborn
screening for sickle cell disease: effect on mortality.
Pediatrics 1988;81:749-55.
Githens JH, Lane PA, McCurdy RS, et al.
Newborn screening for hemoglobinopathies in
Colorado. The first 10 years. Am J Dis Child
Wong WY, Powars DR, Chan L, et al.
Polysaccharide encapsulated bacterial infection
in sickle cell anemia: a thirty-year epidemiologic
experience. Am J Hematol 1992;39:176-82.
Lee A, Thomas P, Cupidore L, et al. Improved survival in homozygous sickle cell disease: lessons
from a cohort study. Br Med J 1995;311:1600-2.
Davis H, Schoendorf KC, Gergen PJ, et al.
National trends in the mortality of children with
sickle cell disease, 1968 through 1992. Am J Public
Health 1997;87:1317-22.
Mortality among children with sickle cell disease
identified by newborn screening during 1990-94
—California, Illinois, and New York. MMWR
Eckman JR, Dent D, Bender D, et al. Follow-up of
infants detected by newborn screening in Georgia,
Louisiana, and Mississippi (abstr). Proceedings of
the 14th National Neonatal Screening Symposium.
Association of Public Health Laboratories,
Washington DC, 1999.
Sickle Cell Disease Guideline Panel. Sickle Cell
Disease: Screening, Diagnosis, Management, and
Counseling in Newborns and Infants. Clinical
Practice Guideline No. 6. AHCRP Pub. No 93-0562.
Rockville, MD: Agency for Health Care Policy and
Research, Public Health Service, U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services. April 1993.
AAP Newborn Screening Taskforce. Serving the
family from birth to the medical home. Newborn
screening: a blueprint for the future. Pediatrics
The Council of Regional Networks for Genetics
Services (CORN). National Newborn Screening
Report—1992, CORN, Atlanta, December 1995.
Pass KA, Lane PA, Fernhoff PM, et al. U.S. newborn screening system guidelines II: follow-up of
children, diagnosis, management, and evaluation.
Statement of the Council of Regional Networks for
Genetic Services. J Pediatr 2000;137(Suppl):S1-46.
Eckman JR. Neonatal screening. In: Embury SH,
Hebbel RP, Mohandas N, et al., eds. Sickle Cell
Disease: Basic Principles and Clinical Practice. New
York: Raven Press, 1994:509-15.
Papadea C, Eckman JR, Kuehner RS, et al.
Comparison of liquid cord blood and filter
paper spots for newborn hemoglobin screening:
laboratory and programmatic issues. Pediatrics
Lobel JS, Cameron BF, Johnson E, et al. Value of
screening umbilical cord blood for hemoglobinopathy. Pediatrics 1989;83:823-6.
Pass KA, Gauvreau AC, Schedlbauer L, et al.
Newborn screening for sickle cell disease in
New York State: the first decade. In: Carter TP,
Willey AM, eds. Genetic Disease: Screening and
Management. New York: Alan R. Liss, 1986:359-72.
Chapter 2: Neonatal Screening
19. Miller ST, Stilerman TV, Rao SP, et al. Newborn
screening for sickle cell disease. When is
an infant “lost to follow-up?” Am J Dis Child
20. Reed W, Lane PA, Lorey F, et al. Sickle-cell
disease not identified by newborn screening
because of prior transfusion. J Pediatr
21. Shafer FE, Lorey F, Cunningham GC, et al.
Newborn screening for sickle cell disease: 4
years of experience from California’s newborn
screening program. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol
22. Strickland DK, Ware RE, Kinney TR. Pitfalls
in newborn hemoglobinopathy screening:
failure to detect β+-thalassemia. J Pediatr
23. Adams JG. Clinical laboratory diagnosis.
In: Embury SH, Hebbel RP, Mohandas N,
et al., eds. Sickle Cell Disease: Basic Principles
and Clinical Practice. New York: Raven Press,
24. Update: Newborn screening for sickle cell disease
—California, Illinois, and New York, 1998.
MMWR 2000;49:729-31.
25. Dumars KW, Boehm C, Eckman JR, et al.
Practical guide to the diagnosis of thalassemia.
Am J Med Genet 1996;62:29-37.
26. Lorey F. California newborn screening and the
impact of Asian immigration on thalassemia.
J Pediatr Hematol Oncol 1997;4:11-6.
27. Johnson JP, Vichinsky E, Hurst D, et al.
Differentiation of homozygous hemoglobin
E from compound heterozygous hemoglobin
Eβo-thalassemia by hemoglobin E mutation
analysis. J Pediatr 1992;120:775-9.
28. Krishnamurti L, Chui DHK, Dallaire M, et al.
Coinheritance of α-thalassemia-1 and hemoglobin
E/βo-thalassemia: practical implications for neonatal screening and genetic conseling. J Pediatr 1998;
29. Weatherall DJ. Hemoglobin E β-thalassemia:
an increasingly common disease wih some
diagnostic pit falls. J Pediatr 1998;132:765-7.
30. Olson JF, Ware RE, Schultz WH, et al.
Hemoglobin C disease in infancy and
childhood. J Pediatr 1994;125:745-7.
31. Zwerdling T, Powell CD, Rucknagel D.
Correlation of α-thalassemia haplotype with
detection of hemoglobin Bart’s in cord blood
by cellulose acetate or isoelectric focusing.
Screening 1994;3:131-9.
32. Miller ST, Desai N, Pass KA, et al. A fast hemoglobin variant in newborn screening is associated with
α-thalassemia trait. Clin Pediatr 1997;36:75-8.
33. Styles LA, Foote DH, Kleman KM, et al.
Hemoglobin H-Constant Spring Disease: an
under recognized, severe form of α-thalassemia.
Internat J Pediatr Hematol/Oncol 1997;4:69-74.
34. Chui DHK, Waye JS. Hydrops fetalis caused by
α-thalassemia: an emerging health care problem.
Blood 1998;91:2213-22.
35. Council of Regional Networks for Genetic
Services, (CORN). Unknown hemoglobin variants
identified by newborn screening: CORN statement. CORN, Atlanta, 1999.
36. Lane PA, Witkowska HE, Falick AM, et al.
Hemoglobin D Ibadan-βo thalassemia: detection
by neonatal screening and confirmation by electrospray-ionization mass spectrometry. Am J Hemotol
37. Witkowska HE, Lubin BH, Beuzard Y, et al. Sickle
cell disease in a patient with sickle cell trait and
compound heterozygosity for hemoglobin S and
hemoglobin Quebec-Chori. N Engl J Med 1991;
38. Witkowska HE, Bitsch F, Shackleton CH.
Expediting rare variant hemoglobin characterization by combined HPLC/electrospray mass spectrometry. Hemoglobin 1993;17:227-42.
Individuals who have sickle cell trait (SCT)
do not have vaso-occlusive symptoms under
physiologic conditions and have a normal life
expectancy. The inheritance of SCT should
have no impact on career choices or lifestyle.
SCT is found in 8 percent of African
Americans and is also prevalent in persons
of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Indian,
Caribbean, and Central and South American
descent. Neonatal screening (chapter 2) will
provide early detection of SCT. This chapter
will discuss clinical syndromes associated with
SCT, some of which occur only under conditions of extreme physiologic stress.
The presence of SCT significantly alters the
management of traumatic hyphema, which is
discussed more fully in chapter 14, Sickle Cell
Eye Disease.
Individuals with SCT can develop microscopic
infarction of the renal medulla, resulting in loss
of maximal urine concentrating ability; this
condition is present in most adults with SCT
(1). Maximum urine osmolality following fluid
deprivation or intranasal DDAVP may be
as low as 400 to 500 mOsm/kg. Coexistent
α-thalassemia provides partial protection
against this urine-concentrating defect (2).
Necrosis of the renal papillae can result in
hematuria, which is usually microscopic. Gross
hematuria is occasionally provoked by heavy
exercise or occurs spontaneously. Individuals
with hematuria should be evaluated by a urologist, who will perform imaging studies as
needed to exclude neoplasms (3-5) or renal
stones or any related problems with flow of
urine from the calyces to the urethra.
Individuals with acute episodes of gross hematuria are cautioned to avoid exercise but are
encouraged to continue to perform sedentary
work. They are encouraged to take fluids
(equivalent to half-normal saline) and may
also receive sodium bicarbonate 650 to 1,200
mg per day. If bleeding persists, an antifibrinolytic agent such as epsilon aminocaproic
acid (EACA) can be prescribed (6). In a controlled trial of individuals with SCT who had
hematuria, administration of EACA at an oral
dose of 6 to 8 grams daily in four to six divided doses caused resolution of hematuria at a
mean of 2.2±0.3 days, compared with 4.5±1.9
days for those individuals not receiving the
Chapter 3: Sickle Cell Trait
drug (6). The authors reported a high incidence
of ureteral obstruction by clots accompanied
by flank pain (in 15 of 38 episodes with an
intravenous pyelogram [IVP]), which resolved
without specific therapy over 2 to 37 days.
However, ureteral obstruction by clot also
occurred at the same frequency in the absence
of EACA. Although the best dose and duration for use of EACA in treatment of hematuria related to SCT has not been adequately
investigated, one effective regimen is administration of 3 grams 3 or 4 times per day for
1 week; in most patients, hematuria will
resolve after 2 to 3 days (7). In some individuals,
iron replacement and even transfusions may
be required.
Occasionally, bleeding is so brisk or persistent
that it is necessary to perform invasive surgery
to visualize bleeding sites, identify the pathology at those sites, and stop the bleeding by
local measures in order to save the kidney.
The frequency of urinary tract infection is
higher in women with SCT than in racially
matched controls, especially during pregnancy,
when the frequency is about double (8). The
presence of SCT in men was not associated
with increased frequency of urinary tract
infection in a large study of patients in U.S.
Department of Veterans Affairs’ hospitals (9).
The incidence of end-stage renal failure from
this disorder is identical for Caucasians and
African Americans; however, the onset of
end-stage renal failure occurs at an earlier
age for individuals with SCT than for African
Americans without SCT (38 years versus 48
years [p<0.003]) (10).
Risk factors for exercise-related death of young
adults with SCT include environmental heat
stress during the preceding 24 hours (11),
incomplete heat acclimation, wearing heatretaining clothing, dehydration, delay in
recognition or treatment of exertional heat
illness, obesity with poor exercise fitness (12),
sustained heroic effort above customary activity, and inadequate sleep. Many of these factors
were present in military recruits under extreme
conditions of 8 weeks of physical training,
where the excess mortality rate for those with
SCT was 1 per 3300 in the late 1970’s (13).
The higher risk of exercise-related death is
attributed mainly to the intensity of new exercises or to sustained duration for which the
individual is unprepared. This higher risk is
eliminated by measures to prevent exertional
heat illness, which should be incorporated into
all intensive exercise programs and made available to all participants.
SCT does not contraindicate participation in
competitive sports. In fact, many reports show
no increased morbidity or mortality for professional athletes with the trait (1) who stay fit
during the off-season. Prevention of exertional
heat illness requires hydration or similar measures for distance runners and military recruits
(1,14,15). Individuals should increase performance levels gradually, and training should
cease and restart slowly if myalgia occurs.
There is no requirement to screen for SCT
before participation in athletic programs.
Splenic infarction usually presents as severe
abdominal pain localized within a few hours
to the left upper quadrant. It is best seen on
a computerized tomography (CT) scan, which
may show a region of hemorrhage. An episode
of splenic infarction with SCT usually resolves
in 10 to 21 days and rarely requires surgical
intervention. Splenic infarction associated with
SCT may occur with hypoxemia from systemic
disease or from exercise at sea level or at high
altitude (1). Splenic infarction is associated
with flights in unpressurized aircraft at 15,000
feet or more but may occur rarely at mountain
altitudes higher than 6,000 feet above sea level.
The frequency seems to be disproportionately
greater in phenotypically non-African American
individuals (16), an observation that may be
due to reporting bias. Nevertheless, numerous
individuals with SCT have participated
successfully in long-distance races in the
Cameroon and in high-altitude sports, including the Olympics in Mexico City. Thus, the
majority of people with SCT can travel safely
to mountain altitudes for recreational activities;
however, rare individuals who have had splenic
complications may risk recurrence.
Surgery is not likely to be complicated by
the fact that an individual has SCT (17).
Individuals with SCT are not at increased
risk for an adverse outcome from anesthesia,
and they are not limited in their choice of
anesthetic agents. There is no convincing
evidence that SCT is associated with increased
frequency or severity of diabetic retinopathy,
stroke, myocardial infarction, leg ulcers, avascular necrosis and arthritis, or the bends due
to diving. Some case reports of possible associations of SCT with increased medical morbidity may represent situations in which other
variants of β- or α-globin chains produced
undiagnosed SCD (18). Rare cases may be
due to increased 2,3-DPG or altered oxygen
affinity, which might increase polymerization
of Hb S sufficiently to cause a phenotype of
SCT to behave like SCD (18,19).
All persons with SCT should be educated
about the inheritance of SCD and about the
availability of partner testing, genetic counseling, and prenatal diagnosis (see chapter 4).
Kark JA, Ward FT. Exercise and hemoglobin S.
Semin Hematol 1994;31:181-225.
2. Gupta AK, Kirshner KA, Nicholson R, et al.
Effects of alpha-thalassemia and sickle
polymerization tendency on the urineconcentrating defect of individuals with SCT.
J Clin Invest 1991;88:1963-8.
3. Davis CJ Jr, Mostofi FK, Sesterhenn IA. Renal
medullary carcinoma. The seventh sickle
cell nephropathy. Am J Surg Pathol 1995;19:1-11.
4. Avery RA, Harris JE, Davis CJ Jr, et al. Renal
medullary carcinoma: clinical and
therapeutic aspects of a newly described tumor.
Cancer 1996;78:128-32.
5. Baron BW, Mick R, Baron JM. Hematuria in
sickle cell anemia—not always benign: evidence
for excess frequency of sickle cell anemia in
African Americans with renal cell carcinoma.
Acta Haematol 1994;92:119-22.
6. Black WD, Hatch FE, Acchiardo S. Aminocaproic
acid in prolonged hematuria of patients with sicklemia. Arch Intern Med 1976;136:678-81.
7. McInnes BK III. The management of hematuria
associated with sickle hemoglobinopathies. J Urol
8. Pastore LM, Savitz DA, Thorp JM Jr. Predictors
of urinary tract infection at the first prenatal visit.
Epidemiology 1999;10:282-7.
9. Heller P, Best WR, Nelson RB, et al. Clinical
implications of sickle-cell trait and glucose6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency in
hospitalized black male patients. N Engl J Med
10. Yium J, Gabow P, Johnson A, et al. Autosomal
dominant polycystic kidney disease in
blacks: clinical course and effects of sickle-cell
hemoglobin. J Am Soc Nephrol 1994;4:1670-4.
11. Kark JA, Burr PQ, Wenger CB, et al. Exertional
heat illness in Marine Corps recruit training.
Aviat Space Environ Med 1996;67:354-60.
Chapter 3: Sickle Cell Trait
12. Gardner JW, Kark JA, Karnei K, et al. Risk factors
predicting exertional heat illness in male Marine
Corps recruits. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1996;28:939-44.
13. Kark JA, Posey DM, Schumacher HR, Ruehle CJ.
Sickle-cell trait as a risk factor for sudden death in
physical training. N Engl J Med 1987;317:781-7.
14. Armstrong LE, Epstein Y, Greenleaf JE, et al.
American College of Sports Medicine. Heat and
cold illnesses during distance running: American
College of Sports Medicine Position Stand. Med
Sci Sports Exerc 1996;28:(12):i-x.
15. Montain SJ, Latzka WA, Sawka MN. Fluid
replacement recommendations for training
in hot weather. Mil Medicine 1999;164:502-8.
16. Lane PA, Githens JH. Splenic syndrome at
mountain altitudes and SCT. Its occurrence
in non-black persons. JAMA 1985;253:2251-4.
17. Steinberg MH. Sickle Cell Trait. In: Steinberg
MH, Forget BG, Higgs DR, et al., eds. Disorders
of Hemoglobin: Genetics, Pathophysiology and
Clinical Management. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge
University Press, 2001:811-30.
18. Witkowska E, Lubin B, Beuzard Y, et al. Sickle cell
disease in a patient with SCT and compound
heterozygosity for hemoglobin S and hemoglobin
Quebec-Chori. N Engl J Med 1991;325:1150-4.
19. Cohen-Solal M, Prehu C, Wajcman H, et al.
A new sickle cell disease phenotype associating
Hb S trait, severe pyruvate kinase deficiency
(PK Conakry), and an alpha2 globin gene variant
(Hb Conakry). Br J Haematol 1998;103:950-6.
Sickle cell trait (SCT) is not considered to
be a health problem, but individuals who test
positive should be informed about the implications for their health and family planning.
Thus, the primary issues addressed in this
chapter are what information should individuals receive, and who should provide it (1-8).
Despite mandatory newborn screening programs implemented in most states by 1991,
children with SCT may not recall or understand the implications by the time they reach
childbearing age. Currently, there are two
major circumstances in which adults will
learn that they have SCT, leading to two
groups of counselees:
1. Parents of a child with SCT. When a
newborn with SCT is identified through
screening, at least one of the parents will
have SCT.
2. Pregnant women. During prenatal care,
women from racial groups with a high
prevalence of the sickle cell gene frequently are tested for the gene.
SCT counseling has two components—education and decision-making—but the emphasis
differs in the two cases above. For the first
group, the focus is on education, that is, to
enable individuals to make informed decisions,
in their own interest, about future family
planning. For the second group, the focus is
on education and informed decisions, in their
best interest, about the current pregnancy.
Although there is basic information that all
counselees should receive, the goals are sufficiently different for the two groups, so that
there should be substantive differences in the
content and the approaches of the respective
counselors. An essential principle for each
counseling group is that advice, personal opinions, and societal positions must not be given
or implied. This admonition must be obeyed
strictly because, in each case, self-determination is the desired outcome. Counselors must
not influence decisions inappropriately—
overtly through statements or covertly
through facial expressions, tone of voice,
body language, etc.—particularly if asked,
“What should I do?”
Since counseling goals are based entirely
upon the principle of self-determination, and
are not intended to be preventive, the counselor’s success is not determined by a decline
in the incidence of sickle cell disease (SCD)
but the extent to which informed self-interest
decisions are made.
Purpose and goal of the session
How sickle cell conditions are acquired—
genetic basis
Difference between SCT and SCD
Health problems that can occur in SCD
Chapter 4: Genetic Counseling
Variability of and inability to predict
occurrence and frequency of health
problems in SCD
Potential outcome of each pregnancy
if one or both partners has SCT
Family planning options
Racial groups who have SCD and the
percent of individuals in the counselee’s
racial group who have SCT and SCD
Average life span of individuals with
There are several noncognitive factors that
pregnant women (and the fathers) may wish
to consider in order to reach a decision consistent with the goal. These factors include:
Coping skills relative to a child with
a serious illness
Personal and cultural values relative
to childbearing
Religious beliefs
The need and desire to have children
Feelings and attitudes about abortion
Belief about self-determination versus
fate as determinants of adverse events
Use lay language whenever possible.
Translate scientific terms into common
everyday usage whenever possible.
Use graphics to illustrate key points.
Establish a dialogue rather than using
a strict lecture format or informationgiving format.
Implement a pre- and postassessment.
Use the postassessment as an opportunity
to clarify misinterpretation or uncertainties that the genetic test revealed.
Provide literature written in lay language
covering the essential facts.
Make available sources of more detailed
information for those who are interested.
Communicate the availability of the
provider for followup questions.
Follow a structured protocol to ensure that
the essential features are covered. This
should not prevent interaction.
Ideally, the first group should be counseled
by geneticists and genetic counselors with
master’s degrees who have been certified by
the American Board of Medical Genetics or
the American Board of Genetic Counselors.
However, the number to be counseled far
exceeds the supply and the availability of these
professionals. Thus, there has been a need to
train others to provide this service. This can
be achieved with laypersons and paraprofessionals (2,4). Individuals selected for this
task must possess certain personal qualities,
including good communication skills, an
engaging personality, and the discipline to
limit information transmission to what has
been approved for them to provide. Several
training programs offer certification for all
comers; however, there is no statewide or
national requirement for certification.
It is not sufficient to have trained and certified
counselors. Since certification simply means
that individuals are qualified, they should be
periodically monitored to see if they consistently follow the protocol. In one program
this is achieved by audiotaping all sessions and
randomly selecting tapes for review and critique (4). Other procedures are to conduct
postsession interviews with counseled individuals, or to periodically schedule sessions with
a trained, knowledgeable, simulated counselee
(preferably without the counselor’s awareness).
Ideally, individuals who are trained to provide
services for the first group should be titled
“sickle cell educators” rather than “sickle
cell counselors” because the term counseling
implies assisting individuals to make decisions, which is not their role. The individuals
who are trained to provide services for the
second group are indeed counselors. The use
of the title counselors for the first group is
so traditional that changing the title will not
occur, but the distinction is worth noting.
The second group should be counseled only
by individuals specifically trained to assist
individuals to make psychosocial decisions.
This includes geneticists, master’s degree
genetic counselors, social workers, and psychologists. The latter two, of course, would
have to be “sickle cell educated.”
For the first group, the interest in being counseled and the information of personal value is
so highly variable it is desirable to have a minimal acceptable achievement level in a basic
counseling session. For example, the counselee
should understand:
The family planning options open
to persons with SCT.
SCT is not an illness, so no restrictions
need to be placed on his or her activities.
The variability in severity of SCD.
Both parents must have the trait for
the child to have SCD.
The 25 percent chance that each pregnancy will result in a child with SCD if both
parents have the trait.
Some of the reasons couples might decide
to have or not have children if both have
the trait.
University of South Alabama
1433 Springhill Avenue
Mobile, Alabama 36604
Contact Person: Linda Jones
(334) 432-0301
Texas Department of Health
1100 West 49th
Austin, Texas 78756
Contact Person: Mae Wilborn
(512) 458-7111 x2071
Cincinnati Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center
3333 Burnet Avenue
Cincinnati, Ohio 45229
Contact Person: Lisa McDonald
(513) 636-4541
Genetic Disease Branch
State Department of Health Services Branch
Berkeley, California 94704
Contact Person: Kathleen Valesquez
(510) 540-3035
Sickle Cell Disease Association of America,
Michigan Chapter
18516 James Couzens Highway
Detroit, Michigan 48235
Contact Person: Jetohn Thomas
(313) 864-4406
Chapter 4: Genetic Counseling
Headings V, Fielding J. Guidelines for counseling
young adults with SCT. Am J Pub Health
Day SW, Brunson GE, Wang WC. Successful
newborn SCT counseling using health department
nurses. Pediatr Nurs 1977;23:557-61.
St. Clair L, Rosner F, James G. The effectiveness
of sickle cell counseling. Am Fam Phys
Whitten CF, Thomas JF, Nishiuria EN. SCT
counseling—evaluation of counselors and
counselees. Am J Hum Genet 1981;33:802-16.
Grossman L, Holtzman N, Charney E, et al.
Neonatal screening and genetic counseling
for SCT. Am J Dis Child 1985;139:241-4.
Rowley PT, Loader S, Sutera CJ, et al. Prenatal
screening for hemoglobinopathies III. Applicability
of the health belief model. Am J Hum Genet
Sickle Cell Disease Guideline Panel. Sickle Cell
Disease: Screening, Diagnosis, Management and
Counseling in Newborns and Infants. Clinical Practice
Guideline No. 6. AHCPR Pub. No. 93 0562.
Rockville, MD: Agency for Health Care Policy and
Research, Public Health Service, U. S. Department
of Health and Human Services. April 1993.
Yang YM, Andrews S, Peterson R, Shah A. Prenatal
sickle cell screening education effect on the followup rates of infants with SCT. Patient Educa Couns
For decades, complications of sickle cell disease (SCD) produced the highest mortality
rate in the first 3 years of life (1). However,
public health programs and comprehensive
care for children who have SCD reduced early
childhood mortality in countries such as the
United States, United Kingdom, France,
Jamaica, and Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately,
childhood mortality is high in other parts of
the world, especially sub-Saharan Africa where
SCD is prevalent but organized SCD programs
are rare. These guidelines are directed to
health care workers mainly in the United
States, but the approaches may be modified
as other conditions and situations permit.
Sickle cells can obstruct blood flow to the
spleen, which results in functional asplenia
within the first few years of life. In addition
to a filtration function, the spleen has B-cells
for antibody production, and when the organ
suffers infarcts and shrinks, this capacity is
lost. Asplenia causes susceptibility to bacterial
infections, particularly with pneumococcus.
Newborn screening may be performed on
blood from the umbilical cord or a heel-prick.
Abnormal results should be confirmed with
a second sample, using a different method (2).
Sickling and solubility tests generally are not
useful because they give negative results when
the fetal hemoglobin (Hb F) level is high, and
do not distinguish between sickle trait (Hb
AS) and different forms of SCD. Tests on
the parents may help to confirm the hemoglobin (Hb) genotype of the baby but can
be incorrect in cases of single parenthood
or nonpaternity. “Deductive” methods based
on blood counts, red cell indices, and relative
levels of Hb F and A2 cannot distinguish
between conditions such as SCD-SS with
α-thalassemia and SCD-S βo-thalassemia,
nor are they useful in children younger than
6 months of age where the relative levels of
hemoglobins have not stabilized (3). These
problems are avoided if DNA-based methods
are applied to detect specific mutations. The
determinations of βs haplotypes and α-thalassemia contribute to the definitive diagnosis
of SCD but play a minor role clinically.
Once a definitive diagnosis is made, the parents should start an educational program with
practical information about the specific type
of SCD that affects their child (4-6). The initial counseling session sets the tone for how
the parents regard their child’s condition and
the new health care team. Parents often ask
about the expected course and capabilities of
the child with SCD. A person experienced in
the care of children with SCD should be available to answer these questions without medical jargon and should allow time for other
questions. It is important to tell parents not
to raise children with SCD as sick children,
since they are not ill most of their lives.
Chapter 5: Child Health Care Maintenance
Parental education about SCD cannot be
accomplished in one counseling session.
Providers who do not have the resources
to provide this important service should
refer the family to an appropriate facility.
Future sessions should be planned to provide
information appropriate for the child’s age,
diagnosis, and clinical course.
Specific physical, laboratory, and other
evaluations are needed to monitor children
with SCD (7).
Physical Examination
SCD in young children has a variable presentation. The earliest physical sign may be jaundice in the first few weeks of life. If hemolysis
is not significant clinically, parents and other
family members should be reassured about
eye color changes so that they do not become
overly anxious. Hepatomegaly is a common
finding in children with SCD; the cause is
unknown, but it does not signify liver dysfunction. Spleen size should be measured,
and parents should be made aware of it.
Organomegaly leads many children with SCD
to have a protuberant abdomen, often with an
umbilical hernia. Almost all SCD patients
with moderate-to-severe anemia have a cardiac
systolic flow murmur that does not require
further evaluation. Parents should be reassured
about the murmur so that they will not be
alarmed when other doctors and nurses notice
it. Bone marrow expansion often causes maxillary hypertrophy with overbite; orthodontics
are recommended to prevent or correct this
problem. Growth and development should be
followed closely in children with SCD, and
nutrition should be optimized. Children and
parents should be counseled about potential
social problems related to short stature and
delayed sexual development, which greatly
affects adolescents.
Laboratory Evaluation
It is useful to collect a series of baseline values
on each patient to compare with those at times
of acute illness. Table 1 shows a typical schedule of routine clinical laboratory evaluations.
Table 1. Suggested Routine Clinical Laboratory Evaluations
CBC with WBC differential, reticulocyte count
3 mo – 24 mo
>24 mo
every 3 mo
every 6 mo
Percent Hb F
6 mo – 24 mo
>24 mo
every 6 mo
Renal function (creatinine, BUN, urinalysis)
≥12 mo
Hepatobiliary function (ALT, fractionated bilirubin)
≥12 mo
Pulmonary function (transcutaneous O2 saturation)
≥12 mo
every 6 mo*
* Frequency may vary based on patient’s clinical course.
Special Studies
The brain and lungs are among the organs
susceptible to serious damage in SCD. Early
detection of dysfunction may allow intervention to reduce risk of further damage.
Doppler ultrasonography
(TCD), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
with or without angiography, and neuropsychometric (NPM) studies have been used extensively to evaluate children with SCD. An
abnormally high blood flow velocity by TCD
in the middle cerebral or internal carotid arteries is associated with an increased risk of stroke;
however, blood flow results should be interpreted cautiously because they are dependent on
the technique employed. TCD screening of
children with SCD-SS is recommended to start
at 2 years of age and continue annually if TCD
is normal and every 4 months if TCD is marginal. Children who have abnormal results
should be retested within 2 to 4 weeks. The
STOP trial (Stroke Prevention Trial in Sickle
Cell Anemia) in 1997 showed that a transfusion program reduces the risk of strokes in
patients with abnormal TCDs (see chapter 13,
Stroke and Central Nervous System Disease).
The major complications of SCD are discussed in other chapters, so only topics of
special relevance to children and parents are
mentioned below.
Brain. Transcranial
Children with SCD who have “silent” cerebral
infarcts detected by MRI have a higher rate
of abnormal NPM studies and a higher risk
for overt strokes. Stroke prevention strategies
based on abnormal MRI results have not been
tested, but children with abnormal MRI or
NPM studies could be evaluated more frequently and carefully and considered for
therapeutic measures.
Children with SCD frequently have
abnormal pulmonary function tests (PFT).
PFT should be done regularly in those with
history of recurrent acute chest episodes or
low oxygen saturation. Lung function declines
with age, so it is important to identify those
who need close monitoring and treatment.
Home caregivers have a crucial role in the
successful management of children with SCD,
and this should be emphasized at each counseling session. Parents should be taught physical
assessment skills (e.g., palpation of spleen), how
to avoid vaso-occlusive complications and treat
pain, and when to administer prophylactic
antibiotics. Educational materials and methods
should be matched to the literacy level of the
caregiver. Instruction should be provided on
how to navigate the medical system. Information about physical findings, laboratory values,
and medications should be retained by the
caregiver in case it is needed in an emergency.
The constant danger of overwhelming infection is one of the most difficult concepts to
impart to caregivers (8). Fever is one of the
most common signs of illness in children,
and most parents are unaware that their child
could die from infection. Pneumococcal vaccination and penicillin prophylaxis have reduced
the risk of mortality for SCD children, and
because of vigilance of parents and health care
providers, death from pneumococcal infection
is rare at major sickle cell centers in the United
States. Current recommendations for vaccinating children, providing prophylactic therapies,
and educating parents about the signs and
dangers of infection should not be relaxed.
Parents should be discouraged from giving
antipyretics at home at the first sign of fever.
Advice that the febrile child deserves further
evaluation only after recurrence or persistence
Chapter 5: Child Health Care Maintenance
of fever (following antipyretic therapy) is
wrong and potentially dangerous. A history
of fever should be taken seriously, and health
care workers, particularly those in emergency
rooms, should not challenge parents whose
children may have no or only low-grade fever
on presentation. At a minimum, the welllooking, nonfebrile child should be observed
in the emergency room for a few hours to
determine whether fever or other signs of
infection develop.
All children with SCD who have fever
(>38.5ºC or 101ºF) and other signs of infection
(chills, lethargy, irritability, poor feeding,
vomiting) should be evaluated promptly. The
younger the child, the higher should be the
index of suspicion. In a child with no obvious
source of infection, a minimum evaluation
should include blood culture, complete blood
count, reticulocyte count, and chest x rays (for
those younger than 3 years of age). Immediately
after the blood is taken, the child should be
given broad-spectrum antibiotics, preferably
intravenously. Broad-spectrum antibiotics
should be given even if these tests cannot be
performed. In areas of the world where malaria
is endemic, antimalarial treatment should
be added to the antibiotic coverage. Further
management protocols vary by locality.
While bacterial infection is the major reason
for concern about the febrile child with SCD,
other complications should not be overlooked
(9). Both acute splenic sequestration and erythroid aplasia (“aplastic crisis”) are commonly
associated with fever. Early acute chest syndrome in young children may show no pulmonary signs.
Painful events are common in children with
SCD. The earliest complication observed
clinically is often dactylitis (“hand-foot syndrome”), which starts at less than 1 year of
age. Typical vaso-occlusive pain may involve
limbs, abdominal viscera, ribs, sternum,
vertebrae, and sometimes skull bones. Pain
episodes can start suddenly, or they may
follow an illness along with decreased activity,
loss of appetite, and increased jaundice.
Parents should be assured that most pain
episodes have no identifiable precipitating
factors, so that they do not blame themselves
or their children. Likewise, health care
providers should not assume that the pain
is due to the fault of the parent.
Children with pain should be evaluated.
Parents should be taught to localize the exact
site of pain, to ensure that a limp is due to
pain and not weakness, and to assess the
degree of pain for appropriate treatment.
The object of pain management is relief, even
in the youngest children. Parents should be
taught proper analgesic use in order to manage
most pain episodes at home. Medications
given for mild and moderate pain include
acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen,
and mild opioids, such as codeine, for young
children. Stronger NSAIDs and opioids are
reserved for older children with severe pain.
Parents should be educated about the side
effects of these drugs and reassured about
the risk of drug addiction when they are used
properly. If home management fails, parents
are encouraged to call for consultation or
a hospital visit.
A report from the Cooperative Study of
Sickle Cell Disease (CSSCD) identified early
predictors of clinical severity such as dactylitis
before 12 months of age, average Hb level
of less than 7 g/dL in the second year of life,
and elevated leukocyte count (>13,700/µL)
before 10 years of age (10). Further studies
will be required to identify those at high
risk in order to consider therapies such
as hydroxyurea, chronic transfusions, or
bone marrow transplants.
Comprehensive management of SCD often
requires a team that comprises doctors, nurses,
health educators, and medical social workers.
Often emergency room physicians, radiologists, anesthesiologists, surgeons, and critical
care specialists also become involved. Facilities
generally should have medical consultants,
hematology and microbiology laboratories,
a radiology service, and blood bank available
24 hours a day. On occasion, patients may
need TCD, computerized axial tomography,
MRI, and MRI with angiography, which are
available at major medical centers.
After the diagnosis of SCD, the comprehensive care team must initiate and coordinate
medical and psychosocial care for the child
and family. These activities should include
education, genetic counseling, and preparation
for independent living.
Survival of children with SCD has been
improved largely through prevention of overwhelming bacterial infections. Preventive
measures include newborn screening, protective
vaccinations, teaching caregivers to recognize
early signs of illness, and prompt treatment
of suspected infections.
Frequent Visits
Children with SCD should receive the same
general health care as children without the disease. Well-child visits for growth monitoring,
immunizations, and counseling on preventive
health measures should be supplemented with
specific information about SCD. The schedule
of visits in the first 2 years of life should be
every 2 to 3 months, planned to coincide with
the immunization schedule. After the age of
2, the frequency of visits depends on patient/
family needs and access to medical consultation, but it should be at least every 6 months.
In addition to routine immunizations against
hepatitis B, polio, diphtheria, pertussis,
tetanus, Haemophilus influenzae type b,
measles, mumps, and rubella, children with
SCD require additional immunizations. The
recent introduction of the pneumococcalconjugated vaccine (PCV) for children in
the United States is important for those with
SCD. Prevnar (Wyeth-Lederle), the 7-valent
PCV (PCV7) licensed in the United States,
covers pneumococcal serotypes 4, 9V, 14,
19F, 23F, 18C, and 6B, and has possible
cross-reactivity with serotypes 6A, 9A, 9L,
18B, and 18F. Together these serotypes
account for 87 percent of bacteremia and 83
percent of meningitis due to pneumococcus
in the United States. The American Academy
of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends Prevnar for
children with SCD up to 59 months of age.
However, there is no reason why older SCD
patients should not receive the vaccine. The
23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV23, also known as 23PS), previously
recommended at 2 years of age with a booster
at age 5, still should be used in addition to the
Chapter 5: Child Health Care Maintenance
conjugated vaccine. The recommended schedules of vaccination for the prevention of pneumococcal infection in U.S. children with SCD
are shown in tables 2 and 3 [modified from
Meningococcal vaccination has not been recommended routinely for children at most U.S.
sickle cell centers, probably due to infrequent
meningococcal infections reported. If children
live in or travel to areas with a high prevalence
of meningococcal infection, this vaccine
should be given. In addition, influenza vaccination is recommended seasonally for patients
with SCD.
Penicillin Prophylaxis
The most important intervention in the routine management of children with SCD is
penicillin prophylaxis to prevent pneumococcal infection (13), which justifies newborn
screening. Penicillin is given twice daily from
as early as 2 months of age, a treatment supported by the hallmark Penicillin Prophylaxis
Studies of the 1980s. It was recommended
that children with SCD-SS be given penicillin
VK: 125 mg by mouth twice daily for those
under 3 years of age, and 250 mg twice daily
for those 3 and older. Penicillin may be given
as a liquid or tablet; finely crushed pills may
be given to young children. Pills have an
important advantage because they are stable
for years, compared to liquid forms of penicillin that must be discarded after 2 weeks.
An alternative to oral penicillin is an injection
of 1.2 million units of long-acting Bicillin™
every 3 weeks.
A study in children older than 5 years of age,
found no clinical benefit of penicillin prophylaxis compared with placebo, indicating that treatment may be stopped at that age (14). Patients
on penicillin had no increased infections with
penicillin-resistant organisms or other adverse
effects. Since splenic function is still absent in
patients with SCD older than 5 years of age,
parents should be given the option to continue penicillin if desired. For patients allergic
to penicillin, erythromycin ethyl succinate
(20 mg/kg) divided into 2 daily doses can provide adequate prophylaxis. The importance of
prophylactic antibiotics should be emphasized
at all visits because parents may become noncompliant with this essential treatment.
Although the data that support these recommendations were generated in SCD-SS
patients, they are assumed to be valid for
SCD-S βo-thalassemia. The CSSCD showed
a higher-than-expected incidence of bacteremia
in children younger than 3 years of age with
SCD-SC. Pneumococcal infection has been
reported in SCD-SC in the first two decades of
life, although less frequently than in SCD-SS.
Protection of SCD-SC patients with prophylactic penicillin and antipneumococcal vaccine
is probably wise even without experimental
data. It is difficult to recommend prophylaxis
for children with SCD-S β+-thalassemia.
Nutrition counseling is an important part
of routine health care. Mothers should be
encouraged to breastfeed their infants; ironfortified formulas are an alternative. However,
additional iron should not be given unless the
patient is proved iron-deficient, since people
with SCD accumulate iron faster than normal.
Microcytosis in children with SCD could be
due to α- or β-thalassemia trait rather than
iron deficiency. Folic acid (1 mg orally) is
given daily to patients with chronic hemolysis,
such as those with SCD, to reduce the risk of
bone marrow aplasia.
Table 2. Recommended Schedule of Pneumococcal Immunization in
Previously Unvaccinated Children with Sickle Cell Disease
Product Type
Age at 1st dose
Primary series
Additional doses
PCV7 (Prevnar)
2-6 mo
3 doses 6-8 wk apart
1 dose at 12 to <16 mo
7-11 mo
2 doses 6-8 wk apart
1 dose at 12 to <16 mo
≥12 mo
2 doses 6-8 wk apart
≥24 mo
1 dose at least 6-8 wk
after last PCV7 dose
PPV23 (Pneumovax)
1 dose, 3-5 yr after
1st PPV23 dose
Table 3. Recommended Schedule for Catch-up Pneumococcal Immunization
for Previously Vaccinated Children with Sickle Cell Disease
Previous doses
12-23 mo
Incomplete primary PCV7
2 doses PCV7, 6-8 wk apart
≥24 mo
4 doses PCV7
1st dose PPV23, 6-8 wk after PCV7;
2nd PPV23 dose, 3-5 yr after 1st PPV23
1-3 doses PPV7
(before 24 mo of age)
1 dose PCV7;
1st dose PPV23, 6-8 wk after PCV7;
2nd PPV23 dose, 3-5 yr after 1st PPV23
1 dose PPV23
2 doses PCV7, 6-8 wk apart, 1st dose given
at least 8 wk after PPV23 dose; 2nd PPV23
dose, 3-5 yr after 1st PPV23
Current U.S. Food and Drug Administration indications are for administration of PCV7 only to children younger than 24 months of age.
Chapter 5: Child Health Care Maintenance
Deficiencies in nutrients (e.g., zinc) should
be corrected if they occur. Fluoride, given in
vitamins or in drinking water, will prevent
dental caries. Standard antibiotic prophylaxis
should be used to cover dental procedures
such as extractions and root canal therapy.
In addition to genetic counseling, children
and teens with SCD and their families may
need academic and vocational guidance, as
well as advice on recreational activities and
travel. The basic premise is that parents should
treat their affected child as normally as possible,
and they should encourage activities that
foster self-esteem and self-reliance. These
feelings will help children and adolescents
to cope more effectively with their illness.
Academic and Vocational Counseling
Educational materials should be provided to
teachers and other school officials who interact
regularly with children with SCD. School
personnel should meet with the parents to
set realistic educational goals. Illness often
interrupts schooling and extracurricular
activities, so tutoring or other assistance may
be needed. Unless impaired by cerebrovascular
disease, children with SCD have normal intelligence and should be encouraged to reach their
full potential.
Vocational counseling is important for adolescents and adults with SCD. The long-term
goal is to prepare the child with SCD for
independent living. Introducing children and
adolescents to adults with SCD who have
coped successfully with their illness has a
positive effect.
Recreation and Travel
Patients should be encouraged to exercise regularly on a self-limited basis. School-age children should participate in physical education,
but they should be allowed to rest if they tire
and encouraged to drink fluids after exercise.
The potential risks of strenuous exertion
should be discussed with the patient. Children
and adolescents may engage in competitive
athletics with caution because signs of fatigue
may be overlooked in the heat of competition.
Coaches are advised against blanket exclusion
from participation or excessive demands for
athletic excellence. Patients with SCD should
dress warmly in cold weather and avoid swimming in cold water.
Children with SCD may benefit from attendance at a summer camp, either an appropriate regular camp or a special one for children
with SCD. If the staff members are knowledgeable about the disease and comfortable
with the care of these children, the campers
can learn self-reliance and share experiences
about SCD while having fun. Health care
providers have found such camps to be a
valuable experience for children with SCD.
Patients or families often seek advice on the
best modes of travel. Flying in pressurized aircraft usually poses no problems for sickle cell
patients; however, they should dress warmly
to adjust for the cool temperature inside, drink
plenty of fluids, and move about frequently
when possible. On the other hand, travel
above 15,000 feet in nonpressurized vehicles
can induce vaso-occlusive complications.
Ordinary travel by car, bus, or train is not
associated with an increased risk of complications, although frequent rest and refreshment
stops should be taken. Patients are encouraged
to consult their physicians before travel, and
they are advised to carry with them specific
medical information about their diagnosis,
baseline hematologic values, a list of current
medications, and the name and telephone
number of their physicians. Providers should
give patients the names of physicians or health
care facilities to contact in case of emergencies.
The change from a pediatric to an adult
care setting is often difficult, and adolescents
should be given help to access adult care
facilities. In some centers, this transition is
eased by concurrent pediatric/adolescent/adult
sickle cell clinic sessions. Chapter 6 provides
more information about how to facilitate
the patient’s transfer from pediatric to adult
health care specialists.
Adolescence is a difficult time of life for
youngsters with chronic diseases. While their
peers become independent, teenagers with
SCD may need frequent help due to illness.
They can become frustrated and have trouble
expressing their feelings. Concern about issues
such as body size, sexual function, pain management, and death often is expressed as rebellion, depression, or refusal to heed treatment
plans and medical advice.
Adolescents should be advised not to use
tobacco, alcohol, and illegal drugs. Postpubertal
adolescents should be educated about sexuality, safe sex practices, and the use of condoms
to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. Girls
should be counseled about the risks of pregnancy in women with SCD, safe birth control
practices, and the merits of pregnancy at the
right age and social circumstances.
Adolescents may view their long-time pediatric
health care providers as too close to their parents and not speak frankly to them. In this
case, families could be referred to adolescent
medicine specialists to discuss sensitive issues
and preparation for adulthood. Alternatively,
adolescents may be able to express their concerns through “teen support groups.”
Leiken SL, Gallagher D, Kinney TR, et al.
Mortality in children and adolescents with sickle
cell disease. Pediatrics 1989;84:500-8.
Sickle Cell Disease Guideline Panel. Sickle Cell
Disease: Screening, Diagnosis, Management,
Counseling in Newborns and Infants. Clinical
Practice Guideline No. 6. Rockville, Maryland:
Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, Public
Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services. 1993. AHCPR Pub. No. 93-0562.
Brown AK, Sleeper LA, Miller ST, et al. Reference
values and hematological changes from birth to
five years in patients with sickle cell disease. Arch
Pediatr Adolesc Med 1994;48:796-804.
Lessing S, Vichinsky E, eds. A Parents’ Handbook
for Sickle Cell Disease. Part I, Birth to Six Years
of Age. Children’s Hospital, Oakland Sickle Cell
Center. Copyright 1990. State of California,
Department of Health Services Genetic Disease
Branch, Revised 1991.
Sickle Cell Disease Guideline Panel. Sickle Cell
Disease in Newborns and Infants. A Guide for
Parents. Consumer Version, Clinical Practice
Guideline No. 6. Rockville, Maryland: Agency for
Health Care Policy and Research, Public Health
Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services. 1993. AHCPR Pub. No. 93-0562.
Day, S. Your Child and Sickle Cell Disease.
Biomedical Communications Department, St.
Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis,
Tennessee. Mid-South Sickle Cell Center. P.O.
Box Suite 235, 1 Children Plaza, Memphis,
Tennessee 38103.
Gill F, Sleeper L, Weiner S, et al. Clinical events
in the first decade in a cohort of infants with sickle
cell disease. Blood 1995;86:776-83.
Chapter 5: Child Health Care Maintenance
Zarkowsky HS, Gallagher D, Gill FM, et al.
Bacteremia in sickle hemoglobinopathies.
J Pediatr 1986;109:579-85.
Pearson HA, Gallagher D, Chilcote R, et al.
Developmental pattern of splenic dysfunction in
sickle cell disorders. Pediatrics 1985;76:392-7.
Miller ST, Sleeper LA, Pegelow CH, et al.
Prediction of adverse outcomes in children with
sickle cell disease. N Engl J Med 2000;342:83-9
Committee on Infectious Diseases. American
Academy of Pediatricts. Policy statement: recommendations for the prevention of pneumococcal
infections, including the use of pneumococcal
conjugate vaccine (Prevnar), pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine, and antibiotic prophylaxis.
Pediatrics 2000;106:362-6.
Overturf GD, the American Academy of Pediatrics
Committee on Infectious Disease. Technical report:
prevention of pneumococcal infections, including
the use of pneumococcal conjugate and polysaccharide vaccine, and antibiotic prophylaxis. Pediatrics
2000;106(2 Pt 1):367-76.
Gaston MH, Verter JI, Woods G, et al. Prophylaxis
with oral penicillin in children with sickle cell anemia. N Engl J Med 1986;314:1593-9.
Falletta JM, Woods RM, Verter JI, et al. Discontinuing penicillin prophylaxis in children with
sickle cell anemia. J Pediatr 1995;127:685-90.
Adolescents with sickle cell disease (SCD)
face the same challenges as their healthy counterparts. They desire acceptance by their peers
but, at the same time, wish to become more
independent. Additional help is needed to
transition to new health care providers and
facilities (1). In a prospective study of over
3,500 patients (2), the course of SCD varied
as patients matured, but the frequency of
pain episodes correlated with disease severity.
Patients older than age 20 with frequent
painful events had the greatest risk of early
death, indicating that continuity of care is
important to minimize morbidity and mortality. Communication with the patient, family,
and multiple providers is needed, but coordination may be difficult between different
departments, such as pediatric and adult clinics.
Several factors conspire to make transition
difficult. Young people with SCD become
familiar with the pediatric environment and
providers to whom they may literally owe their
lives. Adolescent bravado may result in a tendency to deny illness and a reluctance to go
to a strange adult care facility. Adolescents
desire independence as adults but may not be
ready to face new responsibilities for appointments and medications. For example, although
young patients with SCD feel healthy, they
must have routine ophthalmology exams to
forestall blindness. They also need support to
deal with issues such as contraception, sexually
transmitted diseases, and family planning.
Moreover, the current health care environment
tends to neglect the needs of patients with
chronic disorders. Insurers seek groups of
young and healthy people to reduce costs.
Patients with chronic illnesses such as SCD
frequently lose medical coverage when they
become legally independent of their parents.
To reduce expensive hospitalizations, integrated transition programs can provide age-appropriate treatment and continuity of care from
pediatric to adult facilities.
Studies from the Duke Comprehensive Sickle
Cell Center show that a patient’s coping style
significantly predicts the extent of health care
contact, activity, and psychological distress
(3). Patients with active coping styles (use of
multiple cognitive and behavioral strategies)
had fewer emergency room visits. Those
using passive adherence coping styles (reliance
on concrete, passive approaches to pain, such
as resting, without resourcefulness when
initial efforts fail) had more emergency room
visits and participated in fewer activities at
home and in school. Another study found
that negative thinking (expression of fear
and anger) correlates with psychological
distress (4). Nine months after the initial
assessment, these studies showed that the
coping strategies of younger children and
adults are relatively stable, but those of adolescents are in flux. For individuals who rely
on less adaptive strategies (passive adherence
or negative thinking), adolescence may be
Chapter 6: Adolescent Health Care and Transitions
a period when these maladaptive styles predominate. This stress complicates transition.
The unpredictability and stress of SCD pain
episodes affects the entire family, but the
extent of the psychological impact varies
among studies. Some show little psychological
variation between adjustment in siblings and
patients, and little difference from population
norms (5), while others show significant stress
on siblings (6). Parents’ coping styles also
affect children’s activity levels, distress, and
coping strategies. Kramer (7) found 49 percent of the parents of SCD patients in their
sample to be clinically depressed according
to the Center for Epidemiological Studies
Depression scale (CES-D). Programs exist to
improve the education and coping of family
members, reduce daily strain, and teach stress
management techniques (8,9).
The members of a transition team include
physicians, mid-level practitioners (e.g., nurses
or physician assistants), and social service
workers—from both pediatric and adult facilities. Each of these providers views patients
from a different perspective, so they must meet
together often to assess readiness of patients
and their families for transition. Written medical records may not contain enough details
of a patient’s history, so verbal discussion of
“group” knowledge helps. New providers can
miss problems when presented with just a discharge summary and list of medications. The
meetings also give providers who treat adults
a chance to ask questions and to assure pediatricians that patient needs will be met.
Physicians and nurses are the primary health
care providers for most people with SCD, but
pediatric and adult teams are organized differently, which creates problems with transition.
General pediatricians often are the focus of
care for children with SCD, and hematologists
are usually consultants. This structure was
established because all children need to see
pediatricians for development checks and
routine immunizations. Since many children
with SCD have few other problems, general
pediatricians are the main contacts, and pediatric hematologists advise about additional
interventions such as pneumococcal vaccination and penicillin prophylaxis.
By contrast, most adolescents and young
adults ages 18–30 are healthy, so few see
health care providers for preventive measures.
The result is that hematologists become the
primary providers for young people with
SCD. Because patients must take the initiative
for health maintenance, their readiness to
accept this responsibility should be assessed.
A patient’s chronologic age should not automatically trigger transition. Some 18-year-old
youths are not ready to go from pediatric to
adult care, so developmental age is a more
appropriate guide. For instance, delayed neurocognitive development from cerebrovascular
injury may hamper a patient’s ability to adjust
to adult health care until age 20 or 21.
Similarly, a patient who has just experienced
a serious complication, such as acute chest
syndrome, is unprepared psychologically for
transition to new providers.
Social service workers play a major role in
assessment, since they have more contact with
patients and parents than any other members of
the team and can judge how families deal with
psychosocial problems of chronic illness, such
as anxiety and depression. If they concur that
the patient and family are ready for transition,
the subject should be broached to the parents
and child well ahead of time to prepare them.
All parties—patients, providers, and facilities—
must agree beforehand on a plan for transition,
which is an orderly movement of the patient’s
medical care from one set of places and
providers to another. This is a process that
occurs gradually, in contrast to an abrupt transfer of locale. The idea of transition is mentioned a year or so before the process begins,
to prepare families mentally; reading material
can reinforce the concept between clinic visits.
Patients and providers should make plans
together to ensure they are clear to all. Providers
can gauge success at each point, and patients
may ask questions and voice concerns.
For parents, transition to adulthood entails
loss of responsibility for, and control over,
their child’s medical care. They often have
difficulty relinquishing the central role, and
this can produce resistance to the transition
effort. Reassurance that the pediatric and adult
providers will remain in contact is important
to alleviate the fear that the pediatricians are
abandoning them. Patients, parents, and
providers should view transition as a positive
milestone. Together, they have achieved a
significant step and should be congratulated.
Adult providers then become positive additions to an already successful team.
One of the most effective ways to dispel fears
of transition is to make contact with people
who have gone through the process. Support
groups with older adolescents and young
adults are particularly helpful. Community
events, such as picnics or holiday celebrations,
often work better than meetings because they
focus on activity rather than disability, and
discussion is easier without health providers.
Institutional administrators are also important
to support transition programs, which require
personnel allocated by the administration.
A single provider without nursing or social
service support cannot deliver care or transition patients adequately. Some pediatric facilities have an upper age limit for inpatient care,
and transition may be suboptimal if patients
with delayed development are transferred to
adult facilities just because of age.
The pediatric providers should introduce the
adult team to the patient and parents in the
pediatric setting first, if possible. In this familiar environment, the family will have a chance
to clarify details of the transition before a last
pediatric visit. Pediatric providers should not
simply give patients the phone number and
instruct them to call. At the last pediatric visit,
providers should schedule the next appointment as they normally do, but it will be with
the adult team. The first transferred clinic
appointment is a crucial test of transition.
A member of the adult team should escort the
family to the new facility, and introduce them
to the staff there. Patients with SCD may find
it hard to locate a new clinic, especially if they
are symptomatic. For example, a pain episode
is not the best time to meet new providers in
a strange place.
If the patient misses the next appointment,
a pediatric team member (e.g., social worker)
should call and work with the patient, parents,
and adult providers to resolve any issues.
A “no show” at the adult facility may be an
indirect way to ask for more help with the
transition process. Often, patients are reluctant because the adult clinic is unfamiliar,
yet they will not return to the pediatric clinic,
which they perceive to have discharged them.
Continuity is lost, and patients may suffer
a medical catastrophe.
Chapter 6: Adolescent Health Care and Transitions
Young adults with mild SCD tend to skip
followup with specialists who can prevent
complications of SCD. For example, asymptomatic retinal blood vessel proliferation may
result in ocular hemorrhage unless treated by
an ophthalmologist before visual loss occurs.
Prevention is a key step in the management
of SCD, but young people may be lost during
the transition from pediatric to adult care and
suffer unnecessarily. Intervention, coaching,
and continued support can avert this potential disaster.
Other obstacles may exist, due to the infrastructure of the medical system. The best situation is where good programs for children and
adults with SCD coexist, and efforts are coordinated easily. However, when health care
delivery is unbalanced (e.g., a strong pediatric
program but a weak adult one), transition is
more difficult.
Most children with SCD are the offspring of
heterozygous parents who have health insurance. They have fewer chronic complications
than adults, and hospitalizations occur mainly
for self-limited painful events. In contrast,
adults with SCD have difficulty keeping steady
jobs because their organ damage progresses.
Thus they often require government assistance,
but these programs lack full coverage, such as
for transition programs. The combination of
chronic illness and poor reimbursement deters
some adult providers from the care of patients
with SCD. Adult providers sometimes feel
they are given only problem patients, while
pediatricians keep those who are easiest to
treat. Frequent transition team meetings where
adult and pediatric providers discuss the
patients can dispel such misconceptions. In
fact, institutional commitment to transition
programs should be bolstered by data indicating that a well-organized adult care program
for SCD is financially beneficial (10). Both
professional and lay patient advocates should
make this point known.
If no local adult care program exists, pediatricians may hold on to their patients and treat
problems outside their area of expertise (e.g.,
ischemic heart disease). Nevertheless, they also
should empower the patients to deal with an
unfamiliar system. They should give parents a
summary of the child’s medical course for use
in emergencies. This should include copies of
basic records, such as immunizations, blood
type, complications, and current medications,
especially those that work during an acute
pain episode.
Transition programs prepare an adolescent
to assume responsibility for his or her health
care. The primary charge lies with the pediatric providers, whose first step is to assess the
readiness of the patient and family. The transition process encourages the gradual maturation of relationships with adult providers via
steps that are designed individually, due to
differences among institutions, providers, and
patients. Such development does not occur
automatically, and a comprehensive transition
program is not always possible. Nevertheless,
adult providers and administrators should be
enlisted to deliver continuous care, which can
avert medical disasters.
Telfair J, Myers J, Drezner S. Transfer as a component of the transition of adolescents with sickle cell
disease to adult care: adolescent, adult, and parent
perspectives. J Adolesc Health 1994;15:558-65.
2. Platt OS, Thorington BD, Brambilla DJ, et al.
Pain in sickle cell disease. Rates and risk factors.
N Engl J Med 1991;325:11-6.
3. Gil KM, Williams DA, Thompson RK Jr, Kinney
TR. Sickle cell disease in children and adolescents:
the relation of child and parent pain coping strategies to adjustment. J Psychol 1991;16:643-63.
4. Gil KM, Thompson RK Jr, Keith BR, et al. Sickle
cell disease pain in children and adolescents:
change in pain frequency and coping strategies
over time. J Pediatr Psychol 1993;18:621-37.
5. Gold J, Treadwell M, Barnes M, et al.
Psychological and social effects of sickle cell disease
on live-in siblings. Annual Meeting of the National
Sickle Cell Disease Program, Boston, MA, 1995.
6. Treiber F, Mabe A, et al. Psychological adjustment
of sickle cell children and their siblings. Child
Heath Care 1987;16:82-8.
7. Kramer K, Nash K. The prevalence of depression
among a sample of parents of children with sickle
cell disease. Annual Meeting of the National Sickle
Cell Disease Program, Boston, MA, 1995.
8. Kaslow N, Rowland S, Dreelin B, et al.
Psychosocial interventions for children and adolescents with sickle cell syndromes. Annual Meeting,
National Sickle Cell Disease Program, Boston,
MA, 1995.
9. Shearer J. Reducing hospital admissions for
uncomplicated pain episodes through intensive
case management and family therapy techniques.
Annual Meeting, National Sickle Cell Disease
Program, Boston, MA, 1995.
10. Benjamin LJ, Swinson GI, Nagel RL. Sickle
cell anemia day hospital: an approach for the
management of uncomplicated painful crises.
Blood 95;2000:1130-6.
There have been significant improvements
in the outlook for adults with sickle cell
disease (SCD). The Cooperative Study of
Sickle Cell Disease (CSSCD) and other observational studies have helped to define the
prognosis and common complications that
occur as the patients age. Improved management of infections and central nervous system
(CNS) complications in childhood, active
health maintenance for adults, new interventions, and improved psychosocial support have
all contributed to a reduction in morbidity
and mortality.
The prognosis in SCD has dramatically
improved over the past 30 years. Estimates
based on the mortality in the CSSCD indicate
a median survival of 42 years for males and
48 years for females with SCD-SS disease and
60 years and 68 years, respectively, for SCDSC disease (1). Patients are now living into
the seventh and eighth decades. More than
90 percent of patients of all phenotypes will
survive past age 20, and significant numbers
are older than age 50 (1). Risk of early death
in adults with SCD is associated with acute
complications such as pain episodes, anemic
events, acute chest syndrome, chronic renal
failure, and pulmonary disease (2).
Improved survival provides opportunities
to improve the quality of life for patients with
SCD; however, it also provides unique challenges
in health maintenance. The frequency of pain
episodes increases in early adulthood (3).
Hydroxyurea provides the first pharmacologic
intervention that reduces the frequency of
pain episodes in adults (4). Proliferative
retinopathy is a life-long risk that increases
in prevalence with age (5). Vision may be
compromised by these vascular changes that
predispose to retinal hemorrhages, retinal
detachments, and increased intraocular pressure (5). Renal glomerular disease is prevalent
in adults and may cause increasing anemia,
renal failure, and premature death (6-8).
Prevalence of chronic pulmonary disease and
pulmonary hypertension also increases as
patients age, and may contribute to morbidity
and mortality (9). Complications such as leg
ulcers and osteonecrosis of the hips and shoulders cause chronic pain and disability, which
require social and vocational adjustments
(10,11). Essentially unstudied are the pain
episodes that many women experience in association with menstruation and the increased
frequency and severity of pain episodes near
menopause. Geriatric challenges in patients
with SCD are not well studied.
Health maintenance activities must also
address interactions between SCD and other
common health problems of the adult population. Individuals with relative hypertension
and SCD have an increased risk of strokes
and increased mortality, and therefore treatment for hypertension is an important aspect
of health care (12) (see chapter 15, Cardiovascular Manifestations). Patients with SCD
are not protected from developing cancer
Chapter 7: Adult Health Care Maintenance
as they age (13). Diabetes, asthma, arthritis,
atherosclerotic vascular disease, and other
chronic illnesses may occur concurrently
and provide unique challenges in managing
patients with SCD.
Many adults are well adjusted socially and
psychologically. Others, however, experience
problems including anxiety and depression,
and have difficulty forming and maintaining
relationships, finding and keeping employment, and participating in usual daily activities (14-16). There is an increased need for
social and psychological support services to
maximize adjustment and productivity in
adults with SCD (14-16).
Ongoing care of the adult patient includes
preventive health maintenance, early recognition and treatment of complications, continuous assessment of social status, psychological
assessment and support, and continuing
patient education. Such services can be effectively accomplished only during regularly
scheduled well-patient visits where effective
doctor-patient relationships are established
and medical, social, and psychological issues
are addressed.
The initial visit provides an opportunity to
establish rapport with the patient and his or
her family and to determine the patient’s medical and social needs, as well as psychological
strengths and challenges. A complete database
should be developed that includes the information outlined in table 1.
Initially, a number of visits every 1 to 2 weeks
will facilitate developing rapport, discussing
laboratory and other test results, completing
the initial database, developing a problem list
and care plan, and exploring active social or
psychological issues. Routine medical evaluations are scheduled approximately every
2 to 6 months, depending on the patient’s
phenotype and active problems. The database
is updated at every visit. Blood counts, reticulocyte counts, and urinalysis are repeated at
each visit to establish a baseline and detect
problems. Pulse oximetry at each visit is also
helpful. Routine chemistry tests should be
repeated at least annually. Complications such
as chronic organ failure, other medical problems, or complex psychosocial problems often
require more frequent visits and more extensive evaluations.
Patients with hypertension, proteinuria,
increased creatinine, renal tubular acidosis,
or hyperuricemia should have more extensive
and regular evaluation of renal function (see
chapter 19, Renal Abnormalities in Sickle Cell
Disease). Individuals, especially those with
sleep apnea or chronic hypoxia requiring oxygen therapy with pulmonary disease or symptoms, should have regular pulmonary function
studies and evaluation of pulmonary hypertension. Patients should have an annual ophthalmology examination for retinopathy, increased
ocular pressure, and refraction errors. Followup
examinations of patients with significant
proliferative retinopathy is scheduled by the
ophthamalogist at more frequent intervals
(see chapter 14, Sickle Cell Eye Disease).
In many populations, tuberculosis screening
should be done annually. Tetanus immunizations are kept up to date, hepatitis vaccine is
given, and influenza vaccines are administered
annually based on recommendations of the
Table 1. Patient Database
Demographic Information
• Name, address, phone number, family
contacts, social security number, birth date
• Insurance status
Historical Information
• Names, addresses, and phone numbers
of past physicians
• History of SCD related complications and
other medical problems since birth
• Characteristics of pain episodes:
– frequency
– duration
– usual home treatment
– usual emergency department treatment
– average number and duration
of hospitalizations
• Past medical treatment:
– surgery
– transfusions—number, reactions,
– major complications, e.g., cerebrovascular event (CVA), liver, renal, or eye
• Immunization history
• Medications and allergies
• Family history, including sickle cell,
hypertension, diabetes, cancer, others
• Complete review of symptoms by system
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC). Pneumococcal vaccine is repeated every
5 years. Annual testing for HIV and hepatitis
C may be indicated for patients who are sexually promiscuous. Women should be taught
to practice breast self-examination, have an
annual breast examination by a physician, and
have mammograms with a frequency based
on family history and age as recommended
by the American Cancer Society (ACS). Males
should be screened for prostatic specific antigen after age 50. Screening for colon cancer
is based on family history and age as recommended by the ACS.
Objective Data
• Complete physical examination
• Complete blood counts, reticulocyte count,
hemoglobin phenotype, liver profile,
electrolytes, BUN, creatinine
• If transfused, consider ferritin, hepatitis
serologies, and red cell phenotype
• Urinalysis including testing for
• Chest x ray and other x rays depending
on historical and physical findings
• Electrocardiogram in older patients or
those with cardiac symptoms or findings
• Ophthalmology evaluation for retinopathy
Social and Psychological Profile
• Level of education and school success
• Occupational history, hobbies, and
leisure activities
• Financial resources
• Compliance with treatment and
• Coping strategies, mental health, depressive
symptoms, and stressors
• Family support, family participation in
health care, past compliance
• Habits, including smoking history, alcohol
use, and use of recreational drugs
• Sexual history, including birth control and
safe-sex techniques
Initial evaluation should include assessment
of the patient’s and family’s understanding of
SCD. Educational activities should focus on
correcting deficits in knowledge about more
common complications such as infection, gallstones, aseptic necrosis, acute chest syndrome,
leg ulcers, and priapism. Patients should be
taught to seek medical care for persistent fevers
greater than 38˚C (100˚F); chest pain, cough,
and shortness of breath; symptoms of acute
anemia including weakness, dyspnea, or dizziness; abdominal pain with nausea and vomiting; respiratory infection with a productive
Chapter 7: Adult Health Care Maintenance
cough; symptoms of urinary infection; or
unusually severe headaches. Preventive care
includes learning physical limits and regularly
participating in health maintenance, which
includes following medication and immunization recommendations, protecting lower legs,
and practicing safe sex. It is extremely important to discuss the specific risks to individuals
with SCD associated with use of alcohol,
cocaine, marijuana, and cigarettes.
All patients require education about appropriate management of pain. They must be taught
to recognize the sources and intensity of their
pain and to use appropriate therapeutic interventions. Headaches, menstrual cramps, strain,
and muscle pains are best managed with
aspirin, nonsteriodal anti-inflammatory drugs
(NSAIDs), and acetaminophen. Treatment
of SCD-associated pain is initiated with these
agents. Physical therapy interventions—such
as use of rest and heat, drinking fluids, and
using relaxation or distraction—are taught. If
the pain is not controlled by these measures,
the patient is taught to seek medical care.
Patients and families should be reassured that
appropriate use of narcotics to adequately
control pain does not lead to addiction. They
should be encouraged to use only the required
dosages of medication, follow medical directions, and not use the medication for stress,
anxiety, or other purposes.
The occurrence of chronic pain from avascular
necrosis, leg ulcers, and other complications
requires intense education so that patients
understand that the goals of therapy for
chronic pain are different from those for pain
control during acute episodes. These goals are
to minimize pain, increase pain coping skills,
and maintain maximum social and physical
functioning. In addition to pain medications,
treatment may require nonpharmacologic
interventions such as occupational and physical therapy, behavior modification, and other
neurocognitive interventions.
Nutritional counseling is also important, with
the goal of maintaining ideal body weight.
Underweight individuals may require nutritional support. A number of patients need
weight reduction, especially if they are overweight and develop complications such as avascular necrosis and diabetes. Folic acid supplementation is recommended for patients with
sickle cell anemia, although the optimum dose
to normalize homocysteine levels has not been
determined. Many patients take other vitamins
and nutritional supplements, but there is no
strong scientific evidence for their use.
Young adults with SCD must be taught to
approach activities in a way that minimizes
excessive stress, exhaustion, dehydration, and
extremes in temperature. Moderation and selfmonitoring of exertion level is the rule. Thus
individual, rather than team, sports generally
are preferred. Exercise is encouraged, but
activities should be regular and slowly progressive. Hydration with water is important
before, during, and after physical activities.
Cold exposure is minimized by adequate
dressing and avoidance of swimming in cold
water. Patients with avascular necrosis should
maintain ideal body weight, avoid vocations
that require prolonged standing or heavy lifting, and refrain from power weight lifting and
exercise that involves running or jumping.
With proper hydration, most patients can tolerate air travel in planes pressurized to 2,200
meters (17). Patients going above this altitude
in the mountains or in unpressurized aircraft
may experience pain episodes and other complications (17). With advance arrangements,
most airlines will provide supplemental oxygen
for patients who have experienced problems in
the past or who have other medical problems
that may contribute to risk of complications.
There is anecdotal evidence that persons with
splenic function may be at higher risk during
air travel.
Childbearing and birth control should be
discussed with patients and their partners
(see chapter 23, Contraception and Pregnancy).
Discussions should include the risks during
pregnancy, the potential for spontaneous
abortion, and the physical and emotional
challenges of raising an infant. Resources for
patient support during and after the pregnancy should be explored. Preconception education should include genetic counseling and
testing of the partner. Pre- or postconception
genetic counseling should include discussion
of prenatal diagnosis.
with SCD to complete their studies; however,
more time may be required than is usual for
students without medical problems.
Patients must also be encouraged to discuss
their disease with their employers. Maintaining employment may require intervention by
the health care provider to explain limitations
to the employer, provide excuses for absences
from work, and complete forms for the
employer. Health care providers also should be
familiar with legal protection against discrimination in the workplace, as provided by the
Americans with Disabilities Act. Individuals
with severe disease, cerebral vascular accidents,
and avascular necrosis may truly be disabled.
In these situations, the health care provider
should actively assist in obtaining benefits
for the patient.
Individuals with SCD should be encouraged
to complete their education and pursue vocations. Jobs requiring strenuous physical exertion, long work hours, exposure to hypoxia, or
extremes in temperature may not be tolerated
and should be discouraged, especially if the
patient has increased symptoms when engaged
in the vocation.
Higher education and advanced vocational
training can provide vocations and professions
that are ideal for individuals with SCD. Many
young adults seem to have more frequent and
severe pain episodes during the first years of
college. This may be related to the rigors of
academic pursuits, excesses because of
increased independence, or perhaps, directly
related to the natural history of the disease (3).
Carefully teaching the individual to establish
excellent study habits and to practice moderation in social activities usually will reduce the
frequency of complications. These changes,
along with discussions with faculty and advisors, almost always allow motivated students
Social services and psychologic support activities are a critical component of comprehensive
health maintenance in sickle cell patients (18).
These activities are best accomplished if social
workers and mental health professionals are
integrated into the sickle cell care team. Social
workers are invaluable in solving a myriad
of social and family problems. Mental health
workers can assist in managing psychiatric
problems such as depression, teaching coping
skills, and giving instruction in cognitive and
behavioral management of pain. Nurses are an
essential part of the support team because they
have ongoing interactions with the patients
and their families that facilitate identification
of special patient and family needs. Nurses
coordinate health care efforts and education
about preventive health care, and provide
ongoing psychosocial counseling.
Vocational rehabilitation services are also
important in adult health maintenance. Patients
with inadequate education can receive training
Chapter 7: Adult Health Care Maintenance
in order to acquire satisfying employment
that supports independent and productive life
styles. This greatly improves their self-image
and often has a positive impact on their health
and utilization of health care resources. For
example, occurrence of avascular necrosis or
leg ulcers in patients with jobs that require
prolonged standing often requires training
to allow them to qualify for desk jobs.
Routine dental care is important to prevent
loss of teeth and infections that may lead to
other SCD complications. Dental procedures
that require local anesthesia can be performed
in the dentist’s office as with any other patient.
Procedures requiring general anesthesia necessitate hospitalization and may require the usual
perioperative care recommended for sickle cell
patients (see chapter 24, Anesthesia and
Surgery). Patients with a history of rheumatic
heart disease, mitral valve proplapse, heart
murmurs, or those with implanted venous
access catheters and orthopedic prothesis
should receive antibodics for subacute bacterial
endocarditis (SBE) prophylaxis with tooth
extractions, aggressive dental hygiene activities,
gum surgery, or root canal therapy.
Platt OS, Brambilla DJ, Rosse WF, et al.
Mortality in sickle cell disease. Life expectancy
and risk factors for early death. N Engl J Med
Thomas AN, Pattison C, Serjeant GR. Causes of
death in sickle cell diseases in Jamaica. Br Med J
Platt OS, Thorington BD, Brambilla DJ, et al.
Pain in sickle cell disease. Rates and risk factors. N
Engl J Med 1991;325:11-16.
Charache S, Barton FB, Moore RD, et al.
Hydroxyurea and sickle cell anemia. Medicine
Charache S. Eye disease in sickling disorders.
Hematol/Oncol Clin N Am 1996;10:1357-62.
Powars DR, Eliott-Mills DD, Chan L, et al.
Chronic renal failure in sickle cell disease: risk
factors, clinical course, and mortality. Ann Intern
Med 1991;115:614-20.
Falk J, Sheinmen J, Phillips GM, et al. Prevalence
and pathologic features of sickle cell nephropathy
and response to inhibition of angiotensin converting enzyme. N Engl J Med 1992;326:910-15.
Gausch A, Cua M, Mitch WE. Early detection and
the course of glomerular injury in patients with
sickle cell anemia. Kidney Int 1996;49:786-91.
Powars D, Weidman JA, Odom-Maryon T, et al.
Sickle cell chronic lung disease: prior morbidity
and the risk of pulmonary failure. Medicine
Embury SH, Hebbel RB, Mohandas N, et al.
Sickle Cell Disease. Basic Principles and Clinical
Practice. New York: Raven Press, 1994.
Serjeant GR. Sickle Cell Disease. 2nd ed. Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1992.
Pegelow CH, Colangelo L, Steinberg M, et al.
Natural history of blood pressure in sickle cell disease: risks for stroke and death associated with relative hypertension in sickle cell anemia. Am J Med
Dawkins FW, Him KS, Squires RS, et al. Cancer
incidence rate and mortality rate in sickle cell
disease patients at Howard University Hospital.
1986-1996. Am J Hematol 1997;55:188-92.
Thompson RJ, Gil KM, Abrams MR, et al. Stress,
coping, and psychologic adjustment of adults with
sickle cell disease. J Consult Psychol 1992;60:433-40.
Faber MD, Koshy M, Kinney TR. Cooperative
study of sickle cell disease: demographic of
adults with sickle cell disease. J Chronic Dis
Abrams MR, Philips G, Whitworth E. Adaption
and coping: a look at a sickle cell patient population over age 30-an integral phase of the life long
development process. J Health Soc Policy
Mahony BS, Githens JH. Sickle crisis and altitude:
occurrence in the Colorado patient population.
Clin Pediatr 1979;18:431-8.
Koshy M, Dorn L. Continuing care for adult
patients with sickle cell disease. Hematol Clin
N Am 1996;10:1265-73.
Patients with sickle cell disease (SCD) require
multidisciplinary care. They often need assistance to navigate the subspecialties of required
providers. Nurses, nurse practitioners, and
physician assistants, often referred to collectively as mid-level practitioners (MLPs), are wellqualified to coordinate patient care because
they are familiar with holistic approaches.
Patients and their families also need help
to manage the daily problems of living with
a chronic disease. Issues for MLPs include preventive and primary care, pain management,
transfusion and chelation therapy compliance,
and education of patients and other health
care providers.
The MLP is a liaison between the patient,
primary care provider (often the patient’s
hematologist), and specialists. The MLP’s
important functions are to make appointments, encourage patients to keep them, and
implement the recommendations. Patients may
require a number of specialists—surgeons for
indwelling intravenous access devices; obstetricians/gynocologists for birth control counseling,
PAP smears, and later, menopause management; nephrologists for renal evaluations; cardiologists for cardiac function tests (especially
as patients age); psychologists for counseling;
and social workers for help with welfare, social
security, housing, or disability benefits.
Each patient encounter is a chance to stress
the importance of preventive health care.
Physical exams, eye exams, and PAP smears
should be done yearly. Immunizations, EKGs,
and pulmonary function tests are also important but, unfortunately, may get overlooked in
busy practices. Ways to help patients remember their annual preventive care needs include
timing appointments with their birthdays
and reminder letters. Providers can review
and track their patients’ needs with the use of
computerized databases and calendar functions.
Young patients and their families should be
trained to recognize the signs of infection and
other life-threatening complications of SCD.
They also should learn how to use a thermometer and palpate the spleen. The MLP
must stress constantly the importance of
prophylactic penicillin and check that parents
give it properly. Parents should be taught
when to call their child’s health care provider
or seek care at a medical facility.
Discussions about sexuality start when patients
are teenagers, since they are more likely to
ask for help if the subject already has been
raised. Because pregnancy poses a risk for
women with SCD, they often are advised
to use birth control, especially those taking
hydroxyurea or deferoxamine mesylate
(Desferal) (1,2). If no history of thromboembolism exists, they can safely use any method,
including oral contraceptives, Depo Provera,
Chapter 8: Coordination of Care: Role of Mid-Level Practitioners
or Norplant. The MLP should ensure that
patients use birth control properly and
obtain annual PAP smears and STD checks
as required.
Over time, as patients learn about their medical history and the importance of regular
health care visits, they are encouraged to
be proactive. They should be empowered
to choose their own primary care providers
and make their own appointments.
10, PAIN )
Painful events are the most common manifestation of SCD. Oral analgesics can be used to
manage most mild-to-moderate pain episodes
at home. Nonmedical therapies, such as hot
baths and showers, massage, distraction, and
relaxation techniques, also can relieve pain.
Patients should contact their health care
providers for any symptoms such as fevers,
chest pain, difficulty breathing, or pain that
occurs in atypical locations or is more severe
than usual. Providers must educate patients
and their families about basic pain management principles, use of nonopioid medications
[such as nonsteriodal anti-inflammatory drugs
(NSAIDs) and antidepressants], use of opioid
drugs, and the signs of overuse or abuse.
Adults with SCD often experience chronic pain,
managed by daily use of prescription opioids.
The MLP must be vigilant in checking the
patient’s intake of opioids at home, and should
intervene if there is any suggestion of misuse.
A computerized pharmacy database can help
track usage over time. As few providers as possible should write prescriptions for a patient.
When patients know they can only receive
pain medication from one or two providers,
they are less likely to try “shopping around”
for multiple prescriptions. A team approach,
which includes the primary care providers,
pain management experts, and a social worker,
is ideal to help patients manage chronic pain.
When a painful event no longer can be treated
with oral analgesics, patients are encouraged
to go to a day treatment center or emergency
room (3,4). Hospitals with many sickle cell
patients have dedicated day treatment clinics,
but in locations without such facilities, sickle
cell patients can be treated in chemotherapy
infusion suites that have been developed for
oncology patients. Outpatient day treatment
has advantages over the use of emergency
rooms, including the usually more prompt
administration of intravenous or intramuscular
pain medications. The MLP, who is familiar
with the patient, acts as a resource for the day
treatment staff and provides key information
and recommendations about each patient’s
needs. The MLP also assesses the patient for
any complications that require referral to a
physician or admission. Again, the patient’s
need for preventive services, prescription
refills, or any other general health issues should
be reviewed. Aggressive outpatient treatment
of moderate-to-severe pain, coupled with consistent, supportive care from familiar staff,
often can prevent hospitalization.
When hospitalization is needed for a pain
episode or any other SCD complication,
patients should be admitted consistently to the
same unit if possible. They should be treated
with intravenous opioids, by patient-controlled analgesia pumps, or even by patientcontrolled epidural analgesia pumps if available and required (see chapter 10, Pain).
The MLP follows the patient and offers
background about the usual course of illness,
including the patient’s behavior and response
to treatment. This information makes patient
care a better experience for the in-house staff.
The MLP’s input can help the patient receive
appropriate and effective treatment, rather
than being undertreated or viewed as “difficult”
or “drug seeking.” Regular phone contact or
rounds with house staff provide education on
disease management. MLPs also should schedule in-service training for nurses to improve
care for sickle cell patients.
By adulthood, all SCD patients have had many
emergency room visits. The most common
complaint about emergency care is inappropriate treatment of their disease (5,6). MLPs can
educate emergency department staff about the
course and complications of SCD and proper
pain management. Emergency physicians often
undertreat or overtreat painful episodes, not
because of lack of knowledge about SCD but
because of their unfamiliarity with certain
patients. Given the rapid pace in most emergency rooms, quick access to individual patient
care plans is essential. Computerized records,
patient “identification” cards, or a phone call
to the patient’s health care provider are all ways
to transmit information rapidly to emergency
department personnel.
A two-sided identification card (7), about the
size of a business card, can contain enough
information to ensure prompt initial treatment for most sickle cell patients. The card
contains pertinent medical history, baseline
labs, allergies, outpatient medications, the
usual treatment plan for the patient’s pain
episodes, and the name and telephone number
of the patient’s primary health care provider.
The latter also signs the card to give it the
authority of a medical record. The card is laminated to be carried at all times by the patient.
For patients being transfused regularly, MLPs
coordinate the schedules and tests for iron
overload. Persons on transfusion regimens usually have few painful events, so they can go to
school or work full time. Ideally, transfusions
should not interfere with these activities, and
they are given on evenings or weekends at
many sickle cell centers. If transfusions can
be arranged only during regular business
hours, some patients will need help to discuss
this issue with school staff or their employer.
SCD patients should be transfused with
leukocyte-poor, antigen-matched blood to
reduce the frequency of transfusion reactions
and the development of antibodies (8).
Finding antigen-matched blood is often difficult in areas where blood donors are primarily
Caucasian. Providers should encourage blood
donations by African Americans as part of
their community education efforts.
When iron overload is documented, patients
are started on iron chelation therapy. MLPs
should teach children and their families about
the serious complications of iron overload, and
to understand that iron chelation is an integral
part of transfusion therapy, not something to
be ignored because of its inconvenience.
Desferal, the only iron chelator available at
this time, is given by slow, daily, subcutaneous
infusion. MLPs need to monitor compliance
with chelation therapy. If children are begun
on Desferal soon after chronic transfusions
start, compliance during the difficult teen
years may be greater.
Chapter 8: Coordination of Care: Role of Mid-Level Practitioners
Women with SCD can successfully carry pregnancy to term or near term. If a patient on
hydroxyurea is planning or trying to conceive,
the drug should be stopped immediately. The
MLP informs the patient and her family that
the frequency and severity of pain episodes
may increase during pregnancy, but treatment
is the same as that for nonpregnant patients,
with hydration, oxygen, and analgesics,
although doses of the last may be higher.
Reassurance should be given that narcotic
use during pregnancy does not jeopardize the
baby’s health, but if large doses of opioids are
needed late in pregnancy, the newborn may
require opioid weaning.
The pregnancy should be comanaged by highrisk obstetrics and primary and mid-level SCD
health care providers. Patients are seen every
few weeks to reinforce healthy behaviors. The
MLP educates obstetric staff about current
standards of treatment for SCD during pregnancy and advocates for patients to ensure
proper treatment of painful events.
Prophylactic transfusions during pregnancy are
not warranted unless there are complications
such as acute chest syndrome that ordinarily
would be treated with transfusions. There is no
overall decrease in pain frequency, premature
labor, or deliveries for women who are transfused prophylactically during pregnancy (9).
Family education is an integral part of care
for patients with SCD. Family members gradually should reduce their involvement in their
child’s health care so that the patient can
become more independent. This process is
not easy, and supportive assistance and counseling are important.
SCD health care providers can inform their
patients’ communities about SCD by speaking
at meetings. Communities can become
involved through providing social support,
job opportunities, and blood donations. As
patients go through different life stages, more
of their contacts will have to be educated.
MLPs want patients to be independent, wellinformed, and active participants in their own
health care. Therefore, coordination must
balance fostering independence and ensuring
optimal health care. Patient advocacy is a
rewarding aspect of the MLP’s experience
of working with SCD patients.
Castro O. Management of sickle cell disease;recent
advances and controversies. Br J Haematol
Shilalukey K, Kaufman M, Bradley S, et al.
Counseling sexually active teenagers treated with
potential human teratogens. J Adol Health
Benjamin LJ, Swinson GI, Nagel RL. Sickle cell
anemia day hospital: an approach for the management of uncomplicated painful crises. Blood
Ware MA, Hambleton I, Ochaya I, et al.
Day-care management of sickle cell painful crisis
in Jamaica: a model applicable elsewhere? Br J
Haematol 1999;104:93-6.
Maxwell K, Streetly A, Bevan D. Experiences
of hospital care and treatment seeking for pain
from sickle cell disease: qualitative study. BMJ
Shapiro BS, Benjamin LJ, Payne R, Heidrich G.
Sickle cell-related pain: perceptions of medical practitioners. J Pain Symptom Manage 1997;14:168-74.
Mandell E. Medical identification cards facilitate
emergency care for people with sickle-cell disease.
Oncol Nurs Forum (letter) 1997;24:1500-1.
Steinberg MH. Management of sickle cell disease.
N Engl J Med 1999;340:1021-30.
Koshy M, Burd L, Wallace D, et al. Prophylactic
red-cell transfusions in pregnant patients with
sickle cell disease. A randomized cooperative study.
N Engl J Med 1988;319:1447-52.
Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a complex condition that affects the patient, the family, and
the patient’s and family’s relationship with
health care providers and the community. It
is imperative that teaching the skills necessary
for coping with this illness begin at the time
of diagnosis and continue throughout the life
of the patient, and that providers recognize
that including the extended family and the
community in the education process will
ensure the most positive outcome.
No interventions are proven to work with all
patients in all situations (1-15). While a team
knowledgeable about chronic illness and existing intervention models is ideal, available staff
sensitive to the special needs of these patients
can provide effective interventions even in
primary care settings. Providers must recognize
that the complexities of SCD necessitate
a team approach to management. Clinical
management, pain control, coping skills,
genetic counseling, and community interactions, including school and work intervention,
require different expertise. The establishment
of Comprehensive Sickle Cell Centers introduced the concept of comprehensive care for
SCD and refined the multidisciplinary team
approach to health care. Psychosocial support
was recognized as a necessary, integral function
of the health care team. However, psychosocial
interventions should be woven across the spectrum of medical care.
Historically, psychosocial interventions were
reserved for emergency situations. Psychologists
or social workers were called for acting-out
behaviors, housing emergencies, noncompliance issues, and other crises. Crisis situations
may be minimized by identifying specific
points at which psychosocial interventions
may be necessary and planning for them, thus
eliminating the frustration and ineffectiveness
often experienced by patients and caregivers.
Pain, the most well-known symptom of SCD,
is the reason for most hospitalizations and
precipitates many psychosocial crises. Skills
for coping with pain and other complications
of SCD must be taught early and reinforced
often (8,9). Which patients will have mild diseases and which will have a more severe course
is not predictable; however, stress is known
to play an important role in the severity of
chronic illness and pain. Absence of the physical appearance of trauma in severe SCD pain
episodes can confound a patient’s ability to
cope. In addition, many health care providers
are not knowledgeable about sickle cell pain,
its causes, and the best management options.
This can lead to poorly controlled pain, continued treatment failure, and frustration of
patients and providers.
Chapter 9: Psychosocial Management
The availability of prenatal diagnosis offers
the family choices regarding the continuation
of the pregnancy. When the decision is made
to continue, the practitioner has time to assist
the family in preparing for the arrival of a
child with SCD. This time must be spent educating the parents and family about the disease
and the need for family and community support. The better educated the family and the
community, the better care the patient will
receive. Many communities have SCD support
groups that provide an avenue for sharing
anxieties, as well as helpful information (5).
Whenever possible, satisfactory housing,
accessible optimal medical care, and reliable
transportation must be planned before the
baby arrives.
Health insurance, emergency transportation,
housing, and anxiety about recognizing symptoms are some of the issues new parents may
need help acknowledging and addressing.
Frequent clinic visits and home visits will
allow the opportunity for parents and
providers to establish a comfortable relationship to address these issues and help establish
an ongoing pattern of compliance.
Although advances in medical research have
increased the chances for longevity, lack of
understanding on the part of providers may
result in inappropriate treatment plans that defy
adherence. The establishment of clinical practice
guidelines in SCD has decreased—but not eliminated—preventable deaths. In addition, noncompliance may undermine the best care plans.
In many cases, a concerted effort to understand
the causes underlying noncompliant behaviors
is necessary. Skepticism of the health care
system, as well as barriers to access—such as
location of clinics, laboratories, and pharmacies—can all contribute to noncompliance (11).
The most important task of childhood is
obtaining an education. Teachers must understand that children with SCD should be
expected to perform as well as their peers,
although special education is often needed.
Although undetectable micro-infarcts may
cause brain injury, many of the learning
difficulties these cause can be overcome with
appropriate assistance. Failure to perform in
school could be a function of neurological
complications of SCD, but the lack of school
success could also be confounded by socioeconomic factors. Disabilities and limitations
must be acknowledged but, more important,
strengths must be identified and inspired.
Pediatric health care professionals, in their
desire to protect children with chronic illness,
often inadvertently erect barriers to normal
childhood behaviors and accomplishments.
While addressing special needs and routine
childhood health care, allowances must be
made for regular school attendance (by flexible
scheduling of appointments), for activity (by
offering alternatives to inappropriate sports),
and for learning (by providing support and
education to school staff ).
For a discussion of the transition from
pediatric to adult health care, see chapter 6,
Adolescent Health Care and Transitions.
As longevity of SCD patients increased,
the need for continued comprehensive care
became evident; however, while pediatric centers thrive, adult providers are scarce. Longterm management needs to focus not only on
health care needs but on the other goals of
psychosocial well-being—education, independence, and (eventually) marriage and family.
In adulthood, reproductive issues are of major
concern and often are not addressed in a positive manner. Most individuals, including those
with disabilities, hope to achieve normalcy,
(e.g., independence, a meaningful job, and
a family) (13). One barrier to care may be
providers’ lack of understanding of the multiple layers of learning needed to live with SCD
and the realities of trying to be “normal” and
fitting in. The pain experienced by many
patients with SCD can be demoralizing and
overwhelming. In addition to the psychological effects of inadequately treated pain,
patients have the added stress of continually
searching for effective pain relief, resulting in
frequent emergency room visits and episodic
care. This cycle can lead to depression, which
is highest among the chronically ill and in
the 20-40 age group, and is often not recognized or addressed. Continued comprehensive
care—including a strong psychosocial
component—for adults with SCD is most
important, since prevention of complications
is the key to longevity.
Psychosocial issues confronting patients, families, providers, and the community, though
multiple and multifactorial, can be addressed
and result in positive patient outcomes.
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disease: its impact on morbidity and mortality.
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Vichinsky EP, Johnson R, Lubin BH.
Multidisciplinary approach to pain management
in sickle cell disease. Am J Pediatr Hematol Oncol
Adams RJ. Lessons from the Stroke Prevention
Trial in Sickle Cell Anemia (STOP) study. J Child
Neurol 2000;15:344-9.
Britto MT, Garrett JM, Dugliss MA, et al. Risky
behavior in teens with cystic fibrosis or sickle cell
disease: a multi-center study. Pediatrics
Campbell MK, Motsinger BM, Ingram A, et al.
The North Carolina Black Churches United for
Better Health Project: intervention and process
evaluation. Health Educ Behav 2000;27:241-53.
Maunder R, Esplen MJ. Facilitating adjustment to
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Schultz A, Liptak G. Helping adolescents who have
disabilities negotiate transitions to adulthood. Issues
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Benjamin LJ, Dampier CD, Jacox AK, et al.
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Ross-Lee B, Kiss LE, Weiser MA. Should health
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Lillie-Blanton M, Hoffman SC. Conducting
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and their transition to adulthood. Findings from
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Chapter 9: Psychosocial Management
14. Telfair J, Myers J, Drezner S. Transfer as a component of the transition of adolescents with sickle cell
disease to adult care: adolescent, adult, and parent
perspectives. J Adolesc Health 1994;15:558-65.
15. Betz CL. Adolescent transitions: a nursing concern.
Pediatr Nurs 1998;24:23-8.
Shapiro BS, Schechter NL, Ohene-Frempong K.
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Guide for Clinicians. New England Regional
Genetics Group (NERGG), 1994.
Hill SA. Managing Sickle Cell Disease in LowIncome Families. Temple University Press, 1994.
Brandon WE. Disabled: My Life, the First Fifty
Years with Sickle Cell Disease. Philadelphia: VACS
Books, 1997.
Nash, KB. Psychosocial Aspects of Sickle Cell Disease:
Past, Present, and Future Directions of Research. New
York: Haworth Press, 1994.
Mindice K, Elander J. Sickle Cell Disease: A
Psychosocial Approach. Oxford, UK: Radcliffe
Medical Press, Ltd, 1994.
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Caregivers and Health Workers. London: Faber &
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Editors’ Note: The information in this chapter
has been abstracted with permission from the
1999 Guideline for the Management of Acute
and Chronic Pain in Sickle Cell Disease, published by the American Pain Society (1). This
guideline is based on scientific evidence and the
clinical judgment of experts in the management
of acute and chronic pain in sickle cell disease
(SCD). The information is provided in an
abbreviated form with several references in the
guideline, and additional comments in italics.
The hallmark clinical manifestation of SCD
is the acute vaso-occlusive event, or painful
episode. This unique type of pain can start as
early as 6 months of age, recur unpredictably
over a lifetime, and require treatment with
opioids. Painful events are the top cause of
emergency room visits and hospitalizations,
and are a major focus of home management
(2). Management of pain in childhood affects
a person’s ability to cope as an adolescent and
adult. Past, present, and anticipated experiences affect pain management, so pain must
be assessed and treated in a developmental and
psychosocial context.
Major barriers to effective management of
pain are clinicians’ limited knowledge of SCD,
inadequate assessment of pain, and biases
against opioid use. Biases are based on ignorance about opioid tolerance and physical
dependence, and confusion with addiction.
Unwarranted fear of addiction is common
among patients and families, as well as health
care workers. Clinicians should ask about pain
and use patients’ reports as the primary source
for assessment, except in infants where behavioral observations are the main basis for evaluation. Most SCD pain can be managed well
if the barriers to assessment and treatment are
overcome; a comprehensive psychosocial clinical assessment should be performed yearly
(more often for patients with frequent pain).
The most common pain states associated with
SCD are summarized in table 1. When classified according to temporal characteristics,
sickle cell pain can be described as acute,
chronic, or mixed.
The acute painful event is the most common
type of pain, characterized by an unpredictably
abrupt onset without any other explanation.
Intensity varies from a mild ache to severe and
debilitating pain. Uncomplicated acute pain
is self-limited and generally lasts hours to a
few days, but it can persist or recur and may
migrate from one site to another. With comorbid conditions or inadequate treatment, some
painful events can last for weeks.
Chronic pain often is defined as pain that
lasts 3 to 6 months or more and that no
longer serves a warning function. The time
Chapter 10: Pain
distinction is arbitrary, and the condition may
be difficult to distinguish from frequently
recurring acute pain, as in SCD. Chronic pain
(e.g., from bone changes) can be debilitating,
both physically and psychologically. The
involvement of sensation, emotion, cognition,
memory, and context can pose difficult management problems (4).
Pain frequently is mixed as to type and mechanism due to confounding factors. Acute pain
can be superimposed on chronic pain, and
frequent episodes of acute pain can resemble
chronic pain. Neuropathic pain is insufficiently diagnosed in SCD but can result from
nerve infarction, compression from bony
structures, nociceptive substances, and/or
iron overload neuropathy.
A dedicated facility, such as a day hospital, which
includes experts to manage SCD pain, can
reduce overnight admissions and provide timely
relief (5). Should this resource be unavailable,
the following approach is recommended
for patients with painful episodes due to SCD.
Patients should undergo a thorough history and
physical examination to determine whether an
illness might have precipitated the pain, so that
the cause and symptom can be treated simultaneously. Patients should be seen immediately by
a physician if they experience severe abdominal
pain, recurrent vomiting, respiratory symptoms,
neurologic signs of paresis or paralysis, acute joint
swelling, priapism, or abrupt fall in hemoglobin.
Superimposition of acute pain on chronic pain
may confound assessment and treatment.
Clinicians should understand the pain in detail
to tailor therapy to the needs of the patient.
Assessment depends on chronologic age, developmental stage, functional status, cognitive
ability, and emotional state, so these factors
should be considered in the choice of measurement tools. Pain management should be aggressive to relieve pain and achieve maximum
function. Physicians should reassess pain frequently and adjust treatment to provide relief.
Acute Pain Syndrome
Chronic Pain Syndrome
Acute chest syndrome
Hand-foot syndrome
Aseptic (avascular) necrosis
Painful episodes
Leg ulcers
Vertebral body collapse
Splenic sequestration
The goals for assessment of acute and chronic
pain are to characterize a patient’s pain and
related experiences, provide a basis for therapeutic decisions, and document the efficacy
Table 1. Major Pain Syndromes in Patients with Sickle Cell Disease (3)
Right upper quadrant syndrome
of pain control. Because pain is subjective,
assessment requires patients’ self-reports, valid
tools, and measurements repeated over time.
Clinically, self-reports are supplemented by
physical findings, laboratory data, and diagnostic procedures. Figure 1 is a flowchart to
guide clinicians in pain assessment.
Begin hydration. Total fluids should not
exceed 1.5 times maintenance (including
volume for drug infusions). Initial fluid
should be 5 percent dextrose + half-normal saline + 20 mEq KCl/L, adjusted for
serum chemistry results.
Assess the patient for the cause of pain
and complications.
Rapidly assess pain intensity using
a simple measurement tool.
There are two major kinds of assessment:
Rapid assessment of an acute painful
episode. This type of assessment deals with
an isolated pain event and focuses on pain
intensity, prompt treatment, and relief.
Comprehensive assessment for chronic
pain or followup of persons who have acute
pain. This type of assessment usually
occurs at the end of a painful episode,
at office/clinic visits for chronic pain, or
between episodes. The objective is treatment planning (4), which involves the
patient, family (6), and health care team.
Assessment is multidimensional and
should include physiologic, sensory,
affective, cognitive, behavioral, and
sociocultural factors.
Figures 2 to 4 are examples of assessment
instruments. Figure 2 is a unidimensional
“Faces’ Pain” intensity scale (7,8), and figures
3 and 4 show a visual analog scale (VAS) (9)
and multidimensional scales for either chronic
or acute pain assessment. Diaries are also
useful for assessment of pain at home (10).
Rapid Assessment of Acute Pain Episodes
Severe pain should be considered a medical
emergency that prompts timely and aggressive
management (figure 5) until the pain is tolerable. The following recommendations are for
treatment in the emergency room, day treatment center, or hospital if the patient is
admitted directly.
Initial Treatment
The patient in acute pain at an emergency
room or clinician’s office usually has exhausted
all homecare options. Failure of home or outpatient therapy signals the need for parenteral
medications, which include strong opioids like
morphine. If a patient is on long-term opioids
at home, tolerance may have developed, so the
new episode can be treated with a different
opioid or with a higher dose of the same drug
if it is the only one the patient tolerates.
In general, medications and loading doses
should be selected after assessment of the
patient’s current condition and consideration
of the patient’s history, including
usual drugs, dosages, and side effects
during acute pain.
effective treatments at home.
medications taken since the onset
of present pain.
For patients with recurrent pain, the best initial dose of opioids for severe sickle cell pain
is that which provided adequate analgesia at
a previous time. Some patients and clinicians
may prefer a loading dose of parenteral morphine, usually equivalent to 5-10 mg (0.10.15 mg/kg for children), depending on pain
Chapter 10: Pain
Figure 1. Assessment Overview
Determine type of pain
(onset, duration, frequency)
• Frequency of painful episodes
in previous year
• Number of emergency department
visits in past year
• Frequency and duration
of hospitalizations
Acute or Chronic?
occurring acute or
mixed acute superimposed
on chronic)
Brief or Persistent?
intensity, and
impact on
activities and
mood based on
self-report and
location, and
intensity based
on self-report
Demographic and
Psychosocial Factors
• Age
• Gender
• Developmental level
• Family factors
• Cultural factors
• Adaptation to SCD
• Coping styles
• Cognitive abilities
• Mood
• Level of distress
Physical factors
• Blood pressure
• Respiration
• Oxygen saturation level
• Chest/abdomen
• Mobility of joints
• Lab/x-ray data
• Comorbidities/complications
• Pain sites
• Tenderness
• Warmth
• Swelling
• Heart rate
Related to SCD?
Treat based on
characteristics of episode
Impact of Pain
on Functioning
• Self-care
• School
• Work
• Social activities
• Relationships
• Parenting ability
assimilate, and
prioritize profile
probable cause(s)
and precipitating
• Other types of pain
• Pain medication history
• Current medication regime
Identify appropriate
interventions based on
comprehensive assessment
Conduct complete
workup to determine
etiology of pain
Figure 2. Wong-Baker Faces Pain Rating
Scale (7,8)
No Hurt
Little Bit
Hurts Little
Hurts Even
Whole Lot
intensity, patients’ size, and prior opioid experience. Smaller doses of 2.5-5 mg (0.05-0.1
mg/kg for children) can be added later.
Intramuscular administration of medication
should be avoided, if possible, because
absorption is unpredictable and children
may find this method frightening and
For severe pain, intravenous (IV) administration is the route of choice. For patients
with poor venous access, many opioids
can be administered via the subcutaneous
route by bolus dosing, continuous
infusion, or patient-controlled analgesia
pumps (PCA).
Patients who receive opioid agonists should
not be given mixed opioid agonist-antagonists
(e.g., pentazocine, nalbuphine, butorphanol),
because they can precipitate withdrawal
Frequent Reassessment
Assess the pain before pharmacological intervention, at the peak effect of the medication,
and at frequent intervals, until the adequacy
and duration of the medication’s effects have
been determined. Define the measure to be
used in determining response to therapy. For
example, on a scale of 0 to 4 (0 = none, 1 =
little, 2 = moderate, 3 = good, and 4 = complete), relief could be defined as a score of 2
or greater and a pain intensity reduction of at
least 50 or 60 percent from the upper end of
the pain scale. Evaluate the response to therapy
15 to 30 minutes after each dose by assessing
pain intensity, relief, mood, and sedation level.
Frequency of reassessment should take into
account the route of administration. Record
the pain assessment and reassessments, along
with the patient’s other vital signs, in the
patient’s chart and/or on a bedside flowsheet,
so that the effectiveness of treatment can be
evaluated in a timely manner.
Titration to Relief
The recurrent, lifelong nature of the pain
must be considered for consistent management of acute pain episodes, so the pain is
made tolerable and side effects are minimized.
Figure 6 presents three titration methods used
in different situations. Scheme 1 is an aggressive approach when close observation is possible. After the loading dose, one reassesses the
patient at 30-minute intervals and, based on
the results, treats with one-quarter to one-half
of the loading dose until the patient experiences relief. Scheme 2 is for more gradual
titration. The patient is started immediately
on “by the clock” (BTC) doses based on prior
history (e.g., morphine, 8 mg every 2 hours).
“Rescue” doses are used for titration between
BTC doses until relief is achieved. Scheme 3
is for titration using PCA.
Medications may be combined to enhance
the efficacy/safety ratio. Anti-inflammatory
agents, acetaminophen, antihistamines, and
other adjuvant medications can be used with
opioids. Side effects, such as respiratory
depression, should be monitored and treated.
If a patient has pain between doses, the intervals could be decreased or the dose increased.
For patients on large doses of opioids, an alternative approach is to change to one-half the
equianalgesic dose of another opioid and
repeat titration to relief.
Chapter 10: Pain
Figure 3. Memorial Pain Assessment Card (9)
For adolescents and adults, the card is folded along the broken line so that each measure is presented separately in the numbered order.
Mood Scale
Relief Scale
of pain
No relief
of pain
Pain Scale
Just noticeable
No pain
Figure 4. Multidimensional Assessment of Acute Pain
DATE ____/____/______ TIME ____:_____
1. Circle the number that describes your pain right now.
5. Shade the figure
where you feel pain.
Worst possible pain
No pain
2. Circle the number that describes your pain relief.
6. Mark an X where
you hurt most.
Complete relief
No relief
3. Circle the number that best describes your mood.
Best mood
Worst mood
4. Circle the number that describes how drowsy you feel.
Not drowsy
Change the medication delivery route or
regimen if the pain is poorly controlled with
boluses, or if doses are required too frequently
for relief. Intraspinal analgesics, which require
anesthesiology consultation, should not be
considered before an adequate trial of maximal
doses of systemic opioids and adjuvant medications; however, case studies suggest that
epidural anesthetics alone or with fentanyl can
be effective in acute refractory pain of SCD (11).
type of oral preparation used depends on the
characteristics and expected duration of the
pain. If the patient’s pain typically is of short
duration (less than 24 hours), opioids or formulations with a short duration of action are
appropriate, with the advantage of quicker
onset of action. For patients whose pain
requires several days to resolve, a sustainedrelease opioid preparation is more convenient to
take and provides a more consistent analgesia.
The combination of nonopioid analgesics
with opioids can permit lower doses of the
latter. If an opioid like codeine is used, pain
relief is accompanied by mild sedation that
can facilitate rest.
After treatment in an emergency room,
patients may be sent home or admitted
as inpatients. Prescriptions for equianalgesic
doses of oral opioids should be written for
home use if needed to maintain pain relief.
If pain does not diminish significantly after
rigorous therapy, the patient should be
admitted as an inpatient.
Analgesics are the foundation for the management of sickle cell pain, and their use should
be tailored to the individual patient. Sedatives
and anxiolytics alone should not be used to
manage pain, because they can mask the
behavioral response to pain without providing
Management of pain associated with SCD
consists of the use of nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), opioids, and
adjuvant medications (12,13). Management of
mild-to-moderate pain should include NSAIDs
or acetaminophen, unless there is a contraindication; these are nonsedating, so patient activities can continue. If mild-to-moderate pain
persists, an opioid can be added.
Treatment of persistent or moderate-to-severe
pain relies on repeated assessments and appropriate increases in opioid strength or dose. The
NSAIDs and Acetaminophen
Mild-to-moderate pain in children with a fever
or viral syndrome generally is managed with
NSAIDs or acetaminophen; aspirin is avoided
due to a risk of Reye’s syndrome. Acetaminophen
is an analgesic but not an anti-inflammatory
drug, and both NSAIDs and acetaminophen
have ceiling doses above which escalation does
not result in increased relief. Most NSAIDs
are given only orally, except for ketorolac,
which can be used orally or parenterally.
NSAIDs and acetaminophen are not benign.
Many patients with SCD have varying degrees
of hepatic impairment, and acetaminophen
may be toxic when liver disease is present.
NSAIDs also are contraindicated in patients
with gastritis, peptic ulcers, coagulopathies,
and renal failure. All NSAIDs are associated
with renal failure when used on a long-term
basis, and patients must be told not to exceed
safe doses of these medications.
Clinicians should monitor doses and frequency of treatment, and order urinalyses and
renal function tests every 3 to 6 months in
chronic users. Current trials have been inconclusive regarding use of the parenteral NSAID
Chapter 10: Pain
Figure 5a.
Severe acute pain
Arrival at
the pain
Assess for common acute pain
states associated with SCD
Determine type of pain
(onset, duration, frequency)
Determine related symptoms
(look for infections,
complications, other
comorbidities, and
precipitating factors)
Typical pain?
Determine cause
Determine pain characteristics
(intensity, location, and quality
based on self-report)
Related to SCD?
Obtain treatment history:
home meds, acute pain, hospital Rx,
meds past 24 hrs, out-of-home meds?
Assess pain, treat,
and conduct complete
workup to determine
Examine pertinent
physical factors
Summarize assessment profile and select
treatment (based on characteristics
of episode, prior treatment
history, and physical findings)
Currently on chronic
opioid therapy?
Start IV loading dose of short-acting opiod
Adults/children < 50 kg of body weight
• Morphine 0.1-0.15 mg/kg
• Hydromorphone 0.015-0.020 mg/kg
Adults/children > 50 kg of body weight
Time elapsed
from admission
to emergency
• Morphine 5-10 mg
• Hydromorphone 1.5 mg
Select medication and loading dose
based on overall assessment and prior
treatment history.
Note: Patient/family often know what
medication and dosage have been
effective in the past.
Administer by IV (if sufficient
venous access) or subcutaneous route
(if insufficient venous access)
Figure 5b.
Add combination therapy as indicated
(anti-inflammatory and/or antihistamine)
to improve response to therapy
Assess degree of relief
q 15-30 minutes
pain relief?
to relief
Continue to titrate with
1/4-1/2 loading dose to relief
plus coanalgesic
Side effects
Use adjuvant medications
in combination to enhance
the efficacy: side effect ratio
Monitor effectiveness
Begin around-the-clock dosing
Provide rescue dosing
Admit to hospital
Can be
maintained at
home with oral
Send home with prescribed level
of medication (PO) to maintain
adequate pain relief
Time elapsed from admission
to emergency department
Refer back to
clinician managing SCD
Chapter 10: Pain
ketorolac as a single agent. It may be added to
opioids in situations in which opioids provide
inadequate analgesia after optimal titration,
or when the side effects of opioids are problematic. Due to the need for more safety data,
the current recommendation is that ketorolac
should not be used by any route or combination of routes for longer than 5 days in a
given month because of the increased risk
of toxicity (14).
Moderate-to-severe pain is treated with opioids (figure 6, tables 2-3), with or without
NSAIDs and adjuvant medications. Codeineequivalent opioids, such as oxycodone and
hydrocodone, are used for moderate pain.
When opioids are given for the first time for
severe pain, morphine sulfate or hydromorphone should be used. Other morphine-equivalent opioids include oxymorphone, levorphanol, meperidine, fentanyl, and methadone.
Considerations in opioid selection include
type of pain, analgesic history, pain intensity,
route of administration, cost, local availability,
provider comfort with analgesic modalities,
and patient preference. Patient preference
should not be ignored, because it is likely
that individual variations in drug metabolism
contribute to differences in adverse effects
or dose-response to analgesia. The recurrent
nature of SCD pain often allows the patient
to experience multiple treatment options and
learn which regimen provides predictable relief.
Meperidine is the most commonly used opioid
in hospitals for SCD patients with acute
painful episodes. Many patients prefer meperidine because of long-standing prescribing
practices of physicians, and they are apprehensive about changing to a different medication.
There is general agreement, however, that oral
meperidine should not be used for acute or
chronic pain, and the indication for parenteral
meperidine use for acute sickle pain is controversial. Ideally, parenteral meperidine should
no longer be used as first-line treatment of
acute pain in SCD because of CNS toxicity
related to its metabolite, normeperidine. It has
a long half-life and is a cerebral irritant, so
accumulation can cause effects ranging from
dysphoria and irritable mood to clonus and
seizures. Thus, meperidine should be reserved
for brief treatments in patients who have
benefited, who have allergies, or who are
intolerant to other opioids such as morphine
and hydromorphone.
Meperidine should not be used for more than
48 hours or at doses greater than 600 mg/24
hours (13). Because normeperidine is excreted
by the kidneys, meperidine is contraindicated
for patients with impaired renal function as well
as for patients who are taking monoamine oxidase inhibitor antidepressants.
Fentanyl is in the same chemical family as
meperidine and can be used parenterally. In
addition, a transdermal fentanyl preparation
can be an adjunct for managing chronic sickle
pain because it has a 48-72 hour duration
and provides continuous analgesic effect by
a noninvasive, nonoral route of administration.
Hypoventilation and respiratory depression can
occur with the use of fentanyl (14).
Chronic Opioid Therapy. For patients with
several days of pain, or who require chronic
opioid therapy, sustained-release or long-halflife opioid preparations are more convenient
and provide more consistent analgesia. Shortacting opioids may be used for rescue dosing
early in the treatment regimen for breakthrough pain, or until the sustained-release
preparation reaches steady-state levels. In these
situations, the administration of adjuvant
medications may be needed to control predictable opioid side effects such as pruritus,
nausea, sedation, and constipation.
Figure 6. Titration Schemes
Scheme 1
Scheme 2
Scheme 3
Analgesia (PCA)
Loading dose
Loading dose
Loading dose
Reassess in
15-30 minutes
24-hour dosing
Treat with
1/4-1/2 bolus of
loading dose
Reassess and
treat q 15-30
Titrate with
rescue dosing
of 1/4-1/2 of
by-the-clock dose
Give 1/3
of estimated
24-hour dosing
by continuous
2/3 of 24-hour
dosing in
divided doses
per hour
on demand
Reassess before
each titration
Maintain relief with
Set rescue dose at
approximately 1/2 of
maintenance dose for
breakthrough pain
Set limits for number
of rescue doses
over given period,
after which the
maintenance dose
should be adjusted
Set lockout intervals
at q 5 minutes
during first 2 hours
to relief
(titrate phase)
Reassess at 30
minute intervals
Adjust demand
interval to
q 15 or 30 minutes
Maintain relief with
Continue maintenance
therapy and reassessment
Chapter 10: Pain
Table 2. Usual Starting Doses of Opioid Analgesics in Opioid-Naive Adults and Children ≤ 50 kg Body Weight1
Usual Starting Dose for Moderate-to-Severe Pain
Short-acting opioid
Morphine3 (MSIR)
0.3 mg/kg every 3-4 h
0.1-0.15 mg/kg every 2-4 h
0.06-0.08 mg/kg every 3-4 h
0.015-0.020 mg/kg every 3-4 h
not recommended (1.1-1.75 mg/kg
every 3-4 h only if deemed to
be necessary after evaluation).
not recommended (0.75-1.0 mg/kg,
1.1-1.75 mg/kg every 3-4 h
only if deemed to be necessary
after evaluation).
Meperidine4 (Demerol)
Combination opioid/NSAID preparations5
Codeine6 (with aspirin
or acetaminophen)
0.5-1mg/kg every 3-4 h
not recommended
Hydrocodone (in Lorcet,
Lortab, Vicodin, others)
0.15-0.20 mg/kg every 3-4 h
not available
Oxycodone (Roxicodone, also in
Percocet, Percodan, Tylox, others)
0.15-0.20 mg/kg every 3-4 h
not available
Long-Acting Opioid Agonists
(e.g., morphine controlled-release,
Levorphanol, methadone, and
oxycodone controlled-release)
Because is not possible to determine the appropriate starting dose
of controlled-release opioids without knowing the patients’s opioid
requirements as determined by immediate-release preparation,
usual starting doses are not listed for these medications.
Doses listed for patients with body weight less than 50 kg cannot be used as initial starting doses for babies younger than
6 months of age.
2Caution: Recommended doses do not apply to patient with renal or hepatic insufficiency, or other conditions affecting drug
metabolism and kinetics.
3Caution: For morphine, hydromorphone and oxymorphone, rectal administration is an alternate route for patients unable to take
oral medications. Equianalgesic doses may differ from oral and parenteral doses because of pharmacokinetic differences.
4Chronic administration of meperidine may result in central nervous system stimulation, including agitation, irritability, nervousness,
tremors, twitches myoclonus, or seizures, due to accumulation of the toxic metabolite normeperidine. The risk is much greater for
patients with renal or hepatic impairment.
5These products contain aspirin or acetaminophen. Total daily doses of acetaminophen that exceed 6 grams may be associated with
severe hepatic toxicity. Aspirin is contraindicated in children in the presence of fever or other viral disease because of its association
with Reye’s syndrome.
6Caution: Codeine doses higher than 65 mg often are not appropriate because of diminishing incremental analgesia with increasing
doses but continually increasing nausea, constipation, and other side effects.
NOTE: Published tables vary in the suggested doses that are equianalgesic to morphine. Clinical response is the criterion that
must be applied for each patient; titration to clinical responses is necessary. Because there is not complete cross-tolerance among
these drugs, it is usually necessary to use a lower than equianalgesic dose when changing drugs and to retitrate to response.
Table 3. Usual Starting Doses of Opioid Analgesics in Opioid-Naive Adults and Children ≥ 50 kg Body Weight1
Usual Starting Dose for Moderate-to-Severe Pain
Short-acting opioid
Morphine3 (MSIR)
10-30 mg every 3-4 h
5-10 mg every 2-4 h
7.5 mg every 3-4 h
1.5 mg every 3-4 h
15-60 mg every 3-6 h
not recommended (50 -150 mg
every 3-4 h only if deemed to
be necessary after evaluation).
not recommended (50-150 mg
every 3 h only if deemed to
be necessary after evaluation).
Oxymorphone3 (Numorphone)
not available
1-1.5 mg every 6 h or 0.5 mg IV
and cautiously titrate upward
Oxycodone (Roxicodone, OXYIR)
10 mg every 4-6 h
not available
Long-Acting Opioid Agonists
(e.g., morphine controlled-release,
Levorphanol, methadone, and
oxycodone controlled-release)
Because is not possible to determine the appropriate starting dose
of controlled-release opioids without knowing the patients’s opioid
requirements as determined by immediate-release preparation, usual
starting doses are not listed for these medications.
1Caution: Recommended doses do not apply to adult patients with body weight less than 50 kg. For recommended starting doses
for children and adults less than 50 kg body weight, see table 2.
2Caution: Recommended doses do not apply to patient with renal or hepatic insufficiency, or other conditions affecting drug
metabolism and kinetics.
3Caution: For morphine, hydromorphone, and oxymorphone, rectal administration is an alternate route for patients unable to
take oral medications. Equianalgesic doses may differ from oral and parenteral doses because of pharmacokinetic differences.
4Caution: Codeine doses higher than 65 mg often are not appropriate because of diminishing incremental analgesia with increasing
doses but continually increasing nausea, constipation, and other side effects.
5Chronic administration of meperidine may result in central nervous system stimulation, including agitation, irritability, nervousness,
tremors, twitches, myoclonus, or seizures, due to accumulation of the toxic metabolite normeperidine. The risk is much greater for
patients with renal or hepatic impairment.
Equianalgesic doses of oral opioids are prescribed for home use if needed for the pain
relief achieved in the emergency room or
day hospital, or for recurrence of severe pain.
Opioid tolerance and physical dependence
are expected with long-term opioid use and
should not be confused with psychological
dependence (addiction). Opioids should be
tapered carefully in patients at risk for withdrawal syndromes.
Sedation usually precedes one of the most feared side effects of
opioids, respiratory depression. Fortunately,
tolerance to this side effect develops faster than
to the analgesic action; nevertheless, nurses
should monitor sedation levels when patients
are at risk. If sedation persists after prompt
intervention, then pulse oximetry, apnea
monitors, and blood gas levels may be needed.
Side Effects of Opioids.
Chapter 10: Pain
Nausea and vomiting can be treated with
antiemetics such as compazine, metochlorpropamide, or hydroxyzine. Pruritus can be
treated with hydroxyzine or with diphenhydramine; smaller doses given more frequently
may be more effective, causing less sedation
than larger doses administered less often.
Patients should not be considered allergic to
an opioid only on the basis of itching. If opioids are prescribed for home use, patients also
should take stool softeners daily to prevent
Adjuvant Therapies
Adjuvant medications are used to increase
the analgesic effect of opioids, reduce the side
effects of primary medications, or manage
associated symptoms such as anxiety. No
controlled studies of adjuvant medications in
SCD have been done, and guidelines for their
use are derived from use in other pain states.
Sedatives and anxiolytics can be given to
reduce anxiety associated with SCD if pain
also is being treated. When used alone,
however, these drugs can mask the behavioral
response to pain without analgesic relief.
If they are combined with potent opioids,
care must be taken to avoid excessive sedation.
Although much distress and anxiety in patients
is related to unpredictable interruption of
normal activities and the uncertain duration
of pain, some symptoms may be reduced by
a consistent treatment plan.
Antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and clonidine can be used for neuropathic pain, and
antihistamines may counteract histamine
release by mast cells due to opioids.
A small percentage of patients have unusually
frequent and severe pain episodes. They have
a poor quality of life and cannot perform daily
activities. There is empirical evidence that chronic transfusions may reduce debilitating pain
(15), but patients must be assessed periodically
as part of a multidisciplinary pain program.
A major barrier to effective management of
sickle cell pain is a lack of understanding of
opioid tolerance, physical dependence, and
addiction. Tolerance and physical dependence
are expected pharmacologic consequences of
long-term opioid use and should not be confused with addiction.
is a physiologic response to the
exogenous administration of opioids, and
the first sign is decreased duration of medication action. When tolerance develops,
larger doses or shorter intervals between
doses may be needed to achieve the same
analgesic effect.
Physical dependence
also is a physiologic
response to the exogenous administration
of opioids. It requires no treatment unless
withdrawal symptoms—such as dysphoria,
nasal congestion, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, sweating, and seizures—occur or are
anticipated. The risk varies among individuals, but when opioids are given for more
than 5 to 7 days, doses definitely should
be tapered to avoid physiologic symptoms
of withdrawal.
is a not physical dependence
but, rather, a psychologic dependence.
Addiction is a complex phenomenon with
genetic, psychologic, and social roots. The
use of opioids for acute pain relief is not
addiction, regardless of the dose or duration of time opioids are taken. Patients
with SCD do not appear to be more likely
than others to develop addiction. The
denial of opioids to patients with SCD
due to fear of addiction is unwarranted
and can lead to inadequate treatment.
As in the general population, some persons
with SCD will use illicit drugs, such as
cocaine. Patients who have problems with
substance abuse require individual treatment
to provide competent and humane management of their pain. The treatment of patients
who have problems with substance abuse is
complex and is beyond the scope of this chapter;
consultation with appropriate specialists should
be considered.
(16) applies to patients
who receive inadequate doses of opioids or
whose doses are not tapered, and therefore
they develop characteristics that resemble
opioid addiction.
Education about pain management is the basis
for collaboration among patients, families, and
health care providers for optimal treatment.
SCD is incurable, except possibly by bone
marrow transplantation. Health care professionals should tell patients about hydroxyurea,
the drug that is used prophylactically to
reduce the frequency of acute painful events
in severe cases. While no drug is approved
for treatment of SCD itself during an acute
episode, patients must be assured that when
they do experience pain, it will be taken seriously and managed optimally with a plan.
Understandably, some patients whose pain is
managed poorly will try to persuade medical
staff to give them more analgesic, engage in
clock-watching, and request specific medications or dosages. Staff often regard this as
manipulative or demanding behavior. Patients
with SCD often are quite knowledgeable
about the medications they take for their condition and the doses that have worked in the
past. Requests for these specific medications
and doses should not be interpreted as indications of drug-seeking behavior. In addition,
patients who have had frequent painful
episodes often behave in ways learned from
prior experiences. A patient, for example, who
believes that a medication will not be given
unless he or she appears to be in severe pain
may lie quietly when alone but begin to
writhe and moan when a nurse or physician
enters the room. Pseudoaddiction or clockwatching behavior usually can be resolved by
effective communication with the patient to
ensure accurate assessment and by adequate
opioid doses.
Because patient needs change over time,
the care plan must be assessed and modified
accordingly. Nurses and physicians who care
for inpatients with sickle cell pain should be
trained to assess and manage pain so they do
not unwittingly dismiss a patient’s pain or
cause an exacerbation of pain-related behaviors.
Education of clinicians who work in emergency rooms or day treatment centers is also
important because inconsistent or adversarial
care given in these settings can cause mistrust
or other problems that affect patients’ relationships with other health care professionals.
Chapter 10: Pain
Benjamin LJ, Dampier CD, Jacox AK, et al.
Guideline for the Management of Acute and Chronic
Pain in Sickle-Cell Disease. APS Clinical Practice
Guidelines Series, No. 1. Glenview, IL, 1999.
Platt OS, Thorington BD, Brambilla DJ, et al.
Pain in sickle-cell disease. Rates and risk factors.
N Engl J Med 1991;325:11-6.
Ballas SK, Carlos TM, Dampier C, et al.
Guidelines for Standard of Care of Acute Painful
Episodes in Patients with Sickle Cell Disease.
Pennsylvania Department of Health, 2000.
Vichinsky EP, Johnson R, Lubin BH.
Multidisciplinary approach to pain management
in sickle-cell disease. Amer J Pediatr Hematol Onc
Benjamin LJ, Swinson GI, Nagel RL. Sickle cell
anemia day hospital: an approach for the management of uncomplicated painful crises. Blood
Walco GA, Dampier CD. Pain in children and
adolescents with sickle-cell disease: a descriptive
study. J Pediatr Psychol 1990;15:643-58.
Wong DL, Hackenberry-Eaton M, Wilson D, et
al. Whaley and Wong’s Nursing Care of Infants and
Children; 6th edition. St. Louis: Mosby-Year Book,
Inc., 1999:1153.
Wong DL, Baker CM. Pain in children:
comparison of assessment scales. Pediatr Nurs
Fishman B, Pasternak S, Wallenstein SL, et al.
The Memorial Pain Assessment Card. A valid
instrument for the evaluation of cancer pain.
Cancer 1987;60:1151-8.
Shapiro BS, Dinges DF, Orne EC, et al. Home
management of sickle cell-related pain in children
and adolescents: natural history and impact
on school attendance. Pain 1995;61:139-44.
Yaster M, Tobin JR, Billette C, et al. Epidural analgesia in the management of severe vaso-occlusive
sickle cell crisis. Pediatrics 1994;93:310-5.
Jacox A, Carr DB, Payne R, et al. Management
of Cancer Pain. Clinical Practice Guideline No. 9.
Rockville, MD: Agency for Health Care Policy and
Research, Public Health Service, U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services, 1994. AHCPR
Pub. No. 94-0592.
American Pain Society. Principles of Analgesic
Use in the Treatment of Acute Pain and Cancer;
4th edition. Glenview, IL 1999.
United States Pharmacopeial Convention, Inc.
USP Dispensing Information Volume I: Drug
Information for the Health Care Professional.
Rockville, MD, 1999:1810.
Styles LA, Vichinsky E. Effects of a long-term
transfusion regimen on sickle cell-related illnesses.
J Pediatr 1994;125:909-11.
Weissman DE, Haddox JD. Opioid pseudoaddiction—an iatrogenic syndrome. Pain 1989;36:363-6.
Infection is a major complication of sickle
cell disease (SCD). Special preventive measures against infection exist in addition to
routine immunizations; treatment regimens
are based on local formularies and antibiotic
sensitivity tests.
The single most common cause of death in
children with SCD is Streptococcus pneumoniae
sepsis (1,2). The unusual susceptibility results
from two problems: splenic malfunction,
and failure to make specific IgG antibodies
to polysaccharide antigens. Two prevention
strategies are recommended: vaccination and
prophylactic penicillin.
Standard practice is to give a 23-valent
Streptococcus pneumoniae polysaccharide vaccine (PPV23) to all children with SCD at 24
months of age (see chapter 5, Child Health
Care Maintenance). Children with SCD typically do not respond to the vaccine as well as
normal children, but it causes a rise in IgG
antibody against the most immunogenic
polysaccharides, and a lower response to less
immunogenic polysaccharides. For example,
previously immunized children with SCD at
age 5 have specific IgG antibody concentrations comparable to healthy nonimmunized
children, without evidence of a “booster” effect
(3). Unfortunately, the less-immunogenic
antigens are probably responsible for vaccine
failures, but the vaccine still should be administered to all children at age 2. Although it has
not been shown formally to reduce Streptococcus
pneumoniae sepsis, the vaccine has potential
benefits that compare favorably to the risks.
The adverse effects are limited to local reactions in previously immunized individuals.
Fortunately, a new conjugated Streptococcus
pneumoniae vaccine has been developed, and
it holds promise for being more immunogenic
than the previous one, even in infants.
Prophylactic Penicillin
The single most important clinical study in
SCD in the past 20 years was a randomized,
placebo-controlled trial that demonstrated
that the administration of penicillin twice
a day prevents 80 percent of life-threatening
episodes of childhood Streptococcus pneumoniae sepsis (4). This important milestone was the
impetus for the aggressive newborn screening
program enacted by most states. The goal is
to identify all newborns with SCD and start
them on prophylactic penicillin as early as
possible. The recommended regimen is:
Newborn to 3 years:
Penicillin VK, 125 mg orally twice daily
3 to 5 years:
Penicillin VK, 250 mg PO BID
Chapter 11: Infection
To test the effectiveness of prophylaxis beyond
5 years of age, a followup study randomized
400 children (age 5 years) who had been on
prophylactic penicillin to receive placebo or
continue penicillin. After about 3 years of
followup, there was no significant difference
between the groups in the incidence of
Streptococcus pneumoniae meningitis or sepsis
(table 1).
The study demonstrated that it was safe to
discontinue prophylactic penicillin at age 5
(5). Despite these results, some clinicians still
continue prophylaxis beyond age 5, but this
approach is less popular now that penicillinresistant organisms have emerged (6).
Prophylaxis does not eliminate nasopharyngeal
colonization with Streptococcus pneumoniae,
and it is associated with increased resistance
to penicillin and other antibiotics in some
series (7) but not others (8). An alternate
(but unproved) approach for children older
than age 5 is to prescribe penicillin for the
onset of fever. This theoretically provides some
treatment while the patient is on the way to
the doctor. This “just in time” approach sometimes is recommended as an alternative to
prophylaxis for children with SCD-SC or
SCD-S β+-thalassemia, where the incidence
of Streptococcus pneumoniae sepsis is lower
than in sickle cell anemia (SCD-SS).
Historically, Hemophilus influenzae was a
significant pathogen in children with SCD as
well as normal children. Routine immunization
with conjugated Hemophilus influenzae vaccine
has reduced markedly the risk of infection.
Another encapsulated organism, Neisseria
meningitidis, classically infects individuals
with poor or absent splenic function but is
not a common pathogen in SCD. Routine
immunization against this organism is not
recommended unless there is an exposure
or outbreak.
Viral influenza infections can cause severe
morbidity in individuals with SCD. Yearly
vaccination recommendations should be
Intrahepatic sickling, dietary and transfusional
iron overload, and transfusion-related hepatitis
contribute to liver dysfunction in SCD. To
minimize additional risk, some clinicians advise
hepatitis B immunization. This is now routine
for children and should be considered seriously for seronegative adults. Very little evidence
supports routine vaccination against hepatitis
A, although the rationale would be the same.
Table 1: Sepsis and Meningitis in Children after 5 Years of Penicillin Prophylaxis
Who Were Randomized To Stop Prophylaxis at Age 5
Number with Infection, N=200
95% Confidence Interval
4 (2%)
2 (1%)
Virtually all adults with sickle cell anemia
are functionally asplenic, but their immune
systems have matured to allow type-specific
polysaccharide antibody production. Because
they are not as susceptible as children to overwhelming sepsis and the incidence of sepsis is
relatively low, there is only anecdotal evidence
about preventive strategies. Streptococcus pneumoniae vaccination is recommended for adults
with SCD. Some patients keep penicillin on
hand for fever, but most are not prescribed
penicillin prophylaxis routinely.
Most antibiotic treatments are started empirically, before culture results are available. Table
2 summarizes the pathogens that should be
covered in different clinical situations (9-12).
Additional information on some specific situations follows.
Febrile patients with SCD should be evaluated
and treated in the context of functional asplenia. In essence, this means more rapid and
intensive evaluation (exam, blood counts,
cultures, x rays) and lower threshold for
empiric therapy than in a general population.
Because minor febrile illnesses are common
in children, and the risk of death from overwhelming Streptococcus pneumoniae sepsis is
so high, aggressive management is critical.
The following represent key principles in
the management of febrile children (13-15):
Parents and clinicians should be taught that
a temperature over 38.5˚C is an emergency.
Basic laboratory evaluation includes CBC,
U/A, chest x ray and/or oxygen saturation,
and cultures of blood, urine, and throat.
“Toxic-looking” children and those with
temperatures above 40˚C should be treated
promptly with parenteral antibiotics—
before obtaining x rays or laboratory
results. They should be admitted to the
hospital for treatment.
Table 2: Pathogens To Be Covered by Empiric Therapy
Empiric therapy for:
Should include coverage for:
Consider broadening to include:
Fever without source
(rule out sepsis)
Streptococcus pneumoniae
Hemophilus influenzae
Gram-negative enterics
Streptococcus pneumoniae
Hemophilus influenzae
Neisseria meningitidis
Chest syndrome
Streptococcus pneumoniae
Mycoplasma pneumoniae
Chlamydia pneumoniae
Respiratory syncytial virus
Osteomyelitis/septic arthritis
Staphylococcus aureus
Streptococcus pneumoniae
Urinary tract infection
Escherichia coli
Other gram-negative enterics
Chapter 11: Infection
Lumbar puncture should be performed
on “toxic” children and those with signs
of meningitis.
Nontoxic children with temperatures
below 40˚C but with any of the following
should receive prompt parenteral antibiotics and be admitted:
–Infiltrate on chest x ray or abnormal
oxygen saturation (see chapter 16, Acute
Chest Syndrome and Other Pulmonary
–White blood cell count greater than
30,000/µL or less than 5,000/µL
–Platelet count less than 100,000/µL
–Hemoglobin less than 5g/dL
–History of sepsis
Candidates for outpatient treatment may
include nontoxic children with temperatures
less than 40˚C who have never been septic
and have normal chest x ray or oxygen saturation, baseline white cell count, platelet
count, and hemoglobin. They can be
observed at home after parenteral administration of a long-acting antibiotic that covers
Streptococcus pneumoniae and Hemophilus
influenzae (e.g., ceftriaxone, 75 mg/kg) if:
–They have remained clinically stable for
3 hours after the antibiotic dose.
–Endemic Streptococcus pneumoniae in
the community are likely to be antibioticsensitive.
–The parents have been appropriately
trained, have a history of compliance with
prophylactic penicillin, keep appointments
reliably, and have emergency access to the
–A followup program is in place to assure
assessment and retreatment within 24 hours.
Documented bacteremia should be treated
parenterally for 7 days, and children with
meningitis should have at least 14 days of
The acute chest syndrome is covered in chapter 16. Please refer to table 2 above to guide
antibiotic choice.
Acute bone pain is caused by marrow
ischemia. When necrosis and inflammation
are associated with ischemia, the painful event
resembles osteomyelitis or septic arthritis—
including fever, leukocytosis, local swelling
and tenderness, effusions, and abnormal imaging studies. Aspiration of some purely ischemic
bone and joint lesions may yield purulent
material. The overlap in physical, radiographic, and laboratory findings requires an unambiguous bacterial diagnosis to be established.
Blood, joint fluid, or subperiosteal fluid must
be cultured before antibiotics are started to
treat osteomyelitis or septic arthritis. Once
these cultures are obtained, empiric treatment
should cover the pathogens in table 2.
See chapter 12, Transient Red Cell Aplasia,
for discussion of Parvovirus B19, and
chapter 25, Transfusion, Iron Overload,
and Chelation, for discussion of transfusiontransmitted infections.
Leikin SL, Gallagher D, Kinney TR, et al.
Mortality in children and adolescents with sickle
cell disease. Cooperative Study of Sickle Cell
Disease. Pediatrics 1989;84:500-8.
2. Gill FM, Sleeper LA, Weiner SJ, et al. Clinical
events in the first decade in a cohort of infants
with sickle cell disease. Cooperative study of sickle
cell disease. Blood 1995;86:776-83.
3. Bjornson AB, Falletta JM, Verter JI, et al. Serotypespecific immunoglobulin G antibody responses to
pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine in children
with sickle cell anemia: effects of continued penicillin prophylaxis. J Pediatr 1996;129:828-35.
4. Gaston MH, Verter JI, Woods G, et al. Prophylaxis
with oral penicillin in children with sickle cell
anemia. A randomized trial. N Engl J Med
5. Falletta JM, Woods GM, Verter JI, et al.
Discontinuing penicillin prophylaxis in children
with sickle cell anemia. Prophylactic Penicillin
Study II. J Pediatr 1995;27:685-90.
6. Chesney PJ, Wilimas JA, Presbury G, et al.
Penicillin- and cephalosporin-resistant strains
of Streptococcus pneumoniae causing sepsis and
meningitis in children with sickle cell disease.
J Pediatr 1995;127:526-32.
7. Steele RW, Warrier R, Unkel PJ, et al. Colonization
with antibiotic-resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae
in children with sickle cell disease. J Pediatr
8. Norris CF, Mahannah SR, Smith-Whitley K, et al.
Pneumococcal colonization in children with sickle
cell disease. J Pediatr 1996;29:821-7.
9. Wright J, Thomas P, Serjeant GR. Septicemia
caused by Salmonella infection: an overlooked
complication of sickle cell disease, J Pediatr
10. Zarkowsky HS, Gallagher D, Gill FM, et al.
Bacteremia in sickle hemoglobinopathies. J Pediatr
11. Poncz M, Kane E, Gill FM. Acute chest syndrome
in sickle cell disease: etiology and clinical correlates. J Pediatr 1985;107:861-6.
12. Miller ST, Hammerschlag MR, Chirgwin K, et al.
Role of chlamydia pneumoniae in acute chest
syndrome of sickle cell disease. J Pediatr
13. Williams LL, Wilimas JA, Harris SC, et al.
Outpatient therapy with ceftriaxone and oral
cefixime for selected febrile children with sickle cell
disease. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol 1996;18:257-13.
14. Rogers ZR, Morrison RA, Vedro DA, et al.
Outpatient management of febrile illness in
infants and young children with sickle cell anemia.
J Pediatr 1990;117:736-9.
15. Platt OS. The febrile child with sickle cell disease:
a pediatrician’s quandary. J Pediatr 1997;130:693.
Because the life span of red blood cells is
greatly shortened in sickle cell disease (SCD),
temporary suppression of erythropoiesis can
result in severe anemia. Transient red cell
aplasia (TRCA) typically is preceded by or
associated with a febrile illness. The infectious
nature of TRCA is apparent from the fact that
several members of families with congenital
hemolytic anemia may be affected within
a period of several days.
Between 70 and 100 percent of episodes of
TRCA are due to infection by human parvovirus B19, also the cause of erythema infectiosum (“fifth disease”) (1). Aplasia is the result
of direct cytotoxicity of the parvovirus to erythroid precursors, although other progenitors
may be affected in some conditions. Patients
may present with increased headache, fatigue,
dyspnea, more severe anemia than usual, and
a severe decrease in reticulocytes (usually <1
percent or 10,000/µL). Patients may have
fever, signs of upper respiratory infection,
and/or gastrointestinal symptoms. Skin rashes
are characteristically absent. Reticulocytopenia
begins about 5 days postexposure and continues for 7 to 10 days. Exacerbation of anemia
develops shortly after reticulocytopenia.
Hemoglobin levels reached a mean nadir of
3.9 g/dL in one series (2). Patients who present in the convalescent phase may be thought
mistakenly to have a hyperhemolytic process
because of severe anemia and high reticulocyte
levels. However, the diagnosis of TRCA is
supported by increased B19 parvovirus IgM
levels. In at least 20 percent of patients with
serologic evidence of past B19 parvovirus
infection, there was no acute severe anemia.
Following B19 infection, parvovirus-specific
IgG concentrations are increased in most
patients and protective immunity appears
to be life-long; no cases of recurrent disease
have been reported in children with SCD
(1,3). Recovery is often heralded by a massive
outpouring of nucleated red blood cells
(>100/100 white blood cells).
Although the majority of adults have acquired
immunity to B19 parvovirus, hospital workers
who are susceptible and are exposed to
patients with TRCA are at high risk of contracting nosocomial erythema infectiosum (4).
Because infection during the mid-trimester
of pregnancy may result in hydrops fetalis and
stillbirth, isolation precautions for pregnant
staff are a necessity if a parvovirus problem
is suspected (5).
No experimental trials have been reported
regarding the management of TRCA. Although
many patients recover spontaneously, red cell
transfusions should be considered for those
who become symptomatic (see chapter 25,
Transfusion, Iron Overload, and Chelation).
If patients are beginning to show evidence for
red cell production, as determined by the reticulocyte count, they may not need transfusions.
Chapter 12: Transient Red Cell Aplasia
Transfusion was required in 87 percent of
children with SCD-SS and TRCA in a large
Jamaican series (2), but it is much less commonly needed for SCD-SC. Because parvovirus is so contagious, siblings and close
contacts with SCD should be monitored for
the development of aplastic events.
A single case report describes an alternative
to transfusion in a child with Hb SD whose
mother was a Jehovah’s Witness and refused
transfusion (6). This patient was treated with
a single dose of intravenous immune globulin
(1 g/kg) and daily infusions of erythropoietin
(100 units/kg) and exhibited a reticulocytosis
beginning on day 4 after onset of this treatment. Intravenous immune globulin is now the
treatment of choice for parvovirus and aplasia
since it will clear the parvovirus infection (7).
In the past decade, it has become apparent
that a number of complications of B19 parvovirus infection besides TRCA can occur in
patients with SCD. Complications reported
at single centers or in small series include
bone marrow necrosis with pancytopenia (8),
glomerulonephritis (9), stroke (10), acute
chest syndrome (11), and splenic or hepatic
sequestration (12,13). Treatment must then
be based on these manifestations.
Serjeant GR, Serjeant BE, Thomas PW, et al.
Human parvovirus infection in homozygous sickle
cell disease. Lancet 1993;341:1237-40.
Goldstein AR, Anderson MJ, Serjeant GR.
Parvovirus associated aplastic crisis in homozygous
sickle cell disease. Arch Dis Child 1987;62:585-8.
Rao SP, Miller ST, Cohen BJ. Transient aplastic crisis in patients with sickle cell disease. Am J Dis
Child 1992;146:1328-30.
Bell LM. Human parvovirus B19 infection among
hospital staff members after contact with infected
patients. N Engl J Med 1989;321:485-91.
Anand A, Gray ES, Brown T, et al. Human parvovirus infection in pregnancy and hydrops fetalis.
N Engl J Med 1987;316:183-6.
Lascari AD, Pearce JM. Use of gamma globulin
and erythropoietin in a sickle cell aplastic crisis.
Clin Pediatr 1994;33:117-9.
Brown KE, Young NS, Barbosa LH. Parvovirus B19:
Implications for transfusion medicine. Summary of
a workshop. Transfusion 2001;41:130-5.
Eichhorn RF, Buurke EJ, Blok P, et al. Sickle celllike crisis and bone marrow necrosis associated
with parvovirus B19 infection and heterozygosity
for hemoglobins S and E. J Intern Med
Tolaymat A, Mousily FA, MacWilliam K, et al.
Parvovirus glomerulonephritis in a patient with
sickle cell disease. Pediatr Nephrol 1999;13:340-2.
Balkaran B, Char G, Morris JS, et al. Stroke in
a cohort of patients with homozygous sickle cell
disease. J Pediatr 1992;120:360-6.
Lowenthal EA, Wells A, Emanuel PD, et al. Sickle
cell acute chest syndrome associated with parvovirus B19 infection: Case series and review.
Am J Hematol 1996;51:207-13.
Mallouh AA, Qudah A. Acute splenic sequestration
together with aplastic crisis caused by human parvovirus B19 in patients with sickle cell disease.
J Pediatr 1993;122:593-5.
Koduri PR, Patel AR, Pinar H. Acute hepatic
sequestration caused by parvovirus B19 infection
in a patient with sickle cell anemia. Am J Hematol
Stroke is one of the major complications of
sickle cell disease (SCD). The Cooperative
Study of Sickle Cell Disease (CSSCD) showed
that the prevalence and incidence of stroke in
patients with SCD-SS was four times that of
those with SCD-SC (1). Because of this difference in risk, and because most of the available
data are from patients with SCD-SS, screening
of neurologically asymptomatic patients and
primary stroke prevention recommendations
pertain to those with SCD-SS, not SCD-SC.
Recommendations for treatment of symptomatic patients and secondary prevention pertain to all SCD patients.
Children with SCD may have a variety of
anatomic and physiologic abnormalities
involving the central nervous system (CNS)
even if they appear to be neurologically “normal” (2). The abnormalities may be associated
with deterioration in cognitive function with
effects on learning and behavior and may
increase the risk for clinical and subclinical
damage to the CNS in the future.
The approach to management depends on the
specific brain manifestation of interest and the
age of the patient. Therefore, this chapter is
divided into sections based on the major CNS
concerns of children and adults.
Brain dysfunction occurs when oxygen supply
to the brain falls below a critical level based
on need. Symptoms of brain ischemia include
hemiparesis; visual and language disturbances;
seizures (especially focal seizures); and altered
sensation, mentation, and alertness. There is
evidence that oxygen demands are higher in
children than in adults, making the child with
SCD who also has significant anemia at particular risk.
As soon as brain ischemia is suspected,
a prompt and thorough evaluation and consideration for therapy is recommended (figure
1). After initial stabilization and evaluation,
patients should receive urgent noncontrast
computed tomography (CT) scan of the brain
to rule out hemorrhage or other nonischemic
etiologies. Consideration should be given to the
possibility that the symptoms are due to CNS
infection, trauma (e.g., subdural hematoma),
or intoxication—particularly if focal signs are
not prominent.
In the acute stage of ischemic stroke for the
general non-SCD adult population, the only
approved therapy is recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA) if given within 3
hours (3), but there are no data establishing
Chapter 13: Stroke and Central Nervous System Disease
Figure 1. Child with SCD and Symptoms
Child with SCD
with symptoms
Immediate CT—no contrast
Other etiology—
treat as
Evaluate and treat
based on source
of bleeding
MR tests
Consider chronic
Consider transfusion or other
empiric therapy
Observe vs.
empiric therapy
its use in children with SCD where the pathophysiology may differ completely. Therefore,
it is not recommended.
The usual treatment for pediatric patients in
the acute stage of ischemic stroke is hydration
with transfusion, although there are no controlled treatment studies. Exchange transfusion
is preferred, as it avoids the theoretical risk of
increasing blood viscosity that may accompany
rapid elevations in hematocrit, but care must
be taken to avoid hypotension that may worsen cerebral ischemia (4). Because fever increases cerebral metabolism, any degree of hyperthermia should be treated. Hypothermia to
treat stroke is promising but not supported
by data adequate to form a recommendation.
Acute treatment in an intensive care unit
(ICU) or stroke unit will facilitate close
observation and treatment. Seizures should
be treated, but prophylactic therapy or corticosteroids are not recommended. Hypoxemia
and hypotension should be treated and normoglycemia maintained. There are no proven
neuroprotective therapies as yet to lessen
damage or promote recovery.
In early ischemia (less than 3 hours), the cranial
CT may be negative or show only subtle signs.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provides
better detail of the areas of ischemia, and diffusion weighted imaging (DWI) shows hyperintense areas of brain ischemia within minutes
after onset of severe ischemia. Unless the diagnosis is in doubt, MRI should be deferred until
treatment has been initiated. Evaluation within
the first hours to days with MRI is recommended, because MRI-based studies provide
significant additional information, such as the
ability to detect very early and sometimes clinically silent acute lesions with DWI and prior
infarction that may not be seen on CT. Imaging
of the arteries by magnetic resonance angiography
(MRA), may show large vessel occlusive dis-
ease (5) or aneurysms. EEG is recommended
only if there is a clinical suspicion of seizure.
In the subacute phase, evaluations should be
undertaken to make a final determination of
the cause. In many cases, evaluation of the
intracranial vessels will show occlusive vasculopathy characteristic of SCD. Even though
intracranial arterial vasculopathy is the most
likely cause of stroke in this setting, consideration should be given to other etiologies that
cause stroke in young persons (6). If there is
a history of head or neck trauma and arterial
dissection is suspected, the radiologist should
be notified so that appropriate changes in the
magnetic resonance (MR) acquisition protocol
can be made prior to study.
Other causes of stroke in children—such as
infection, cardiac embolism, and clotting disorders including anticardiolipin antibodies—
should be considered (7). While hemiparesis
typically improves, cognitive deficits are often
significant and long lasting; formal testing
should be carried out to identify rehabilitation
and educational needs.
TIAs have been defined as ischemic events
in which the symptoms resolve in less than
24 hours. Because TIAs are a strong predictor
of stroke in other settings and in SCD as well,
there is a general recommendation that all
patients with TIA receive appropriate therapy
for stroke prevention. In this particular setting
there are few data. The diagnosis of TIA is
difficult in children, especially those who are
very young, and painful episodes can mimic
hemiparesis or paraparesis. In cases where the
history is weak for the event actually being
a TIA, caution is advised, especially if longterm transfusion is being considered.
In the case of a child in which a TIA is observed
or strongly suspected, a prior recommendation
is reiterated as a reasonable approach (2): if
Chapter 13: Stroke and Central Nervous System Disease
the patient has significant large vessel disease
on imaging, transfusion should be undertaken.
If the patient has not been screened for stroke
risk by transcranial Doppler (TCD) ultrasound (8), this should be done and treatment
initiated according to the discussion under
“Prevention of Brain Infarction,” below, and
figure 2. Alternatively, other tests, if available,
such as positron emission tomography (PET)
(9) or MR spectroscopy, could be employed.
If these indicate significant “brain at risk,”
prophylactic treatment with transfusion can
be undertaken on the basis that the child’s
brain blood supply has already failed once,
even if transiently, and is at significant risk
for subsequent deterioration.
sometimes be inferred by the location of blood.
Minor subarachnoid hemorrhages may have
no identifiable cause even when angiography
is performed, but an angiogram is recommended to identify aneurysms or arteriovenous malformations (AVM) if surgery is being
considered. This is clinically relevant because
aneurysms may rebleed, and SCD patients
may have multiple aneurysms that require
management. Surgical clipping, as well as
AVM removal, has been successfully performed
in many patients with SCD. Although
aneurysms can be identified using MR, MRA
is not a definitive test for aneurysms unless
special techniques are used (20). However,
MRI/MRA can reliably detect AVM.
Antiplatelet agents are usually recommended
for TIAs in cases without SCD, but there are
very few data on efficacy in SCD. Agents
such as aspirin, clopidogrel, and combination
dyprimadole/aspirin are used in adults and
in cases where transfusion is not undertaken.
The initial treatment of subarachnoid hemorrhage is stabilization in a neurological intensive care unit or pediatric ICU, depending on
local expertise and the age of the child. Initial
care includes intravenous normotonic fluids
to avoid dehydration. The effect of transfusion
on the course and outcome of hemorrhage
is not known; however, reduction of sickle
hemoglobin (Hb S) to less than 30 percent
of total hemoglobin is recommended.
Nimodopine, a calcium antagonist that
improves outcome after SAH by counteracting
delayed arterial vasospasm, is indicated in
adults with SAH (10). Use in this setting
with young children is not approved but
is reasonable on an empiric basis. The adult
dosage of 60 mg orally every 4 hours for
21 days should be adjusted by weight.
The clinical presentation of intracranial
hemorrhage is dramatic and may include
severe headache, vomiting, stupor, or coma.
However, hemiparesis may be present, especially with intraparenchymal bleeding. A child
with such a presentation requires rapid but
careful evaluation to rule out meningitis,
sepsis, hypoxemia, drug intoxication, or other
metabolic derangements. A noncontrast
cranial CT should be performed as soon as
possible. Intracranial hemorrhage should be
approached based on the location of the blood
on the CT scan, as described below.
Subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH)
The usual cause of subarachnoid hemorrhage
(SAH) is rupture of a berry aneurysm. The
aneurysm may not be seen on CT, but can
Intraparenchymal Hemorrhage
If the CT shows blood primarily confined
to the parenchyma, the cause may still be
an AVM, but an aneurysm is not likely
unless there is also subarachnoid bleeding.
Intraparenchymal bleeding may be associated
with large vessel vasculopathy, especially if
a moyamoya formation is present. In some
Figure 2. Child with Hb SS and No Symptoms
Child with Hb SS, age >2
with no symptoms
educational needs
based on results
TCD unavailable
Transcranial Doppler (TCD)
(≥ 200 cm/sec)
Not abnormal
(< 200 cm/sec)
Repeat TCD
every 3-12 months*
Abnormal exam
Low risk
High risk based on
other information**
Protocol treatment
or clinical trial
Or treatment options:
for progression
■ Hydroxyurea
■ Transfusion
■ Other (e.g.,
antiplatelet agents)
* Optimal frequency of rescreening not established. Younger children with velocity
closer to 200 cm/sec should be rescreened more frequently.
** Prior TIA, low steady state Hb, rate and recency of acute chest syndrome, elevated systolic blood pressure.
Chapter 13: Stroke and Central Nervous System Disease
patients, no vessel pathology can be seen
on angiography. Evaluation of these patients
with MRA may be sufficient if there is no
subarachnoid blood, because an aneurysm
is not likely as the source of bleeding. Better
definition of the vasculature can be obtained
with conventional angiography.
Initial management depends on the size and
location of the bleeding. A rapid search for
coagulopathy should be made with a determination of the activated partial thromboplastin
time (aPTT) and prothrombin time (PT) and
correction of any coagulopathy. Management
of the hematoma includes medical control of
intracranial pressure and consideration for surgical removal in selected cases, particularly if
there is a large (>3 cm) cerebellar hematoma.
Rebleeding in this setting in the short term
is rare. Normotonic fluids and avoidance of
hypotension are important (11).
Intraventricular Hemorrhage
Intraventricular hemorrhage is unusual but
may be seen in the case where fragile moyamoya vessels near the ventricular wall rupture
into the ventricular space. In such cases the
pediatric patient is at risk for acute hydrocephalus and death if ventricular flow is
obstructed. The child should receive prompt
neurosurgical evaluation for intraventricular
catheter placement for drainage. After acute
stabilization, evaluation of the cerebral vessels
(best done by conventional angiography)
should be undertaken to try to identify the
underlying cause.
Several uncontrolled studies have documented
a reduction in recurrent cerebral infarction
using chronic blood transfusion with the target
of reducing Hb S to less than 30 percent of
total hemoglobin (12,13). The reduction in
recurrent stroke risk is significant, but patients
may still have a stroke despite adequate transfusion and low Hb S levels. If a patient on
transfusion has a “breakthrough” cerebral
infarction or TIA, the Hb S level should be
checked to ensure that it is being maintained
at 30 percent or below, and the etiology of
ischemia should be evaluated. Consideration
should be given to risk factors beyond SCDrelated vasculopathy, including elevated homocysteine or a hypercoagulable state. Elevated
homocysteine can be reduced with folate, as
is recommended for patients without SCD
(14). Data suggest that some SCD patients
have elevated antiphospholipid antibodies
(15) and protein C and S deficiencies (16).
If the abnormalities are severe enough, anticoagulation with warfarin should be considered.
Treatment of these conditions has not been
tested in randomized clinical trials but is
reasonable based on pathophysiology.
After several years of transfusion therapy, it
may be reasonable to allow Hb S levels to rise
up to 50 percent by reducing the intensity of
transfusions; this has not been formally tested,
however. Moreover, the duration of time after
which transfusion can be safely stopped has
not been defined. Some studies have reported
high rates of recurrent stroke (17), although
others have suggested that transfusion may
be safely withdrawn in older patients who
have been extensively treated (18). Current
recommendations are that transfusion should
be continued for at least 5 years or at least
until the child reaches the age of 18. Chronic
transfusion induces iron overload, which
must be managed along with the transfusions
(see chapter 25, Transfusion, Iron Overload,
and Chelation).
Patients with stroke have received bone marrow
transplantation (19). The current indications,
efficacy, and outcome of this therapy are
discussed in chapter 27, Hematopoietic Cell
Transplantation. Hydroxyurea is used for
reduction of painful episodes in adults with
SCD, but the trial establishing its use provides
no guidance on whether hydroxyurea is a suitable alternative to transfusion for prevention of
stroke. Clinical studies in children have reported short-term safety, but these studies have not
established hydroxyurea as an alternative to
transfusion for stroke prevention in this setting
(20). Anticoagulants and antiplatelet agents
have not been studied in this indication.
The CSSCD established that patients with
SDC-SS have rates of stroke in childhood in
the range of 0.5-1 percent per year (1). In the
Stroke Prevention Trial in Sickle Cell Anemia
(STOP) study, children between 2 and 16
years of age who were at risk for first-time
stroke, as determined by having TCD velocity
greater than 200 cm/sec, were randomized to
receive either periodic transfusions to maintain
the Hb S level below 30 percent or standard
supportive care (21). An interim analysis
demonstrated that periodic transfusions were
efficacious in preventing first-time stroke,
in the children randomized to the transfusion
arm. At the end of the trial, all participants
were offered periodic transfusion therapy. The
main side effects of the transfusion therapy
were iron accumulation and alloimmunization,
through the rate of occurrence was low. A
new trial, known as STOP II, is now in place
to determine whether transfusions need to
be continued indefinitely of if they can be
stopped after some period of time when risk
of stroke has diminished.
TCD can be performed with either the
dedicated 2-MHz pulsed Doppler device
used in STOP or with TCD attachments to
ultrasound imaging machines (transcranial
Doppler imaging, or TCDI) that have also
been used in this setting (22).
In addition to TCD, a number of other
approaches have been used to identify children at risk for stroke (figure 2). The CSSCD
identified five significant risk factors in a
long-term prospective study: prior TIA, low
steady-state hemoglobin, rate and recency
of acute chest syndrome (ACS), and elevated
systolic blood pressure. The newborn cohort
of the CSSCD identified three early life (first
2 years) predictors of severe outcomes such
as stroke (23). These were dactylitis, severe
anemia, and leukocytosis.
Other clinical and laboratory indicators of
stroke risk that have been reported include
stroke in a sibling, subtle neurological abnormalities, severe anemia, high leukocyte count,
certain βs-gene haplotypes, and no α-gene
deletion (2).
The CSSCD confirmed that about 13 percent
of children with SCD have “silent” brain
lesions on MRI, in predominantly frontal and
parietal cortical, subcortical, and border-zone
locations (24,25). These lesions are associated
with poor performance on neuropsychological
testing. Recent evidence from the CSSCD
confirms an earlier smaller study indicating
that the risk of clinical stroke is increased if
MRI is abnormal. The presence of these
lesions should prompt evaluation of the child
for learning and cognitive problems, and evaluation of cerebral vessels for primary stroke
prevention (see above). Silent lesions are evidence of brain injury and should also lead to
reevaluation of the patient’s history, which
Chapter 13: Stroke and Central Nervous System Disease
may reveal symptoms that were not previously
recognized, as well as reexamination of the
patient’s clinical and laboratory risks for stroke.
The rate of stroke in children with positive
MRI and with TCD that do not reach current
treatment guidelines is not clear, and the risks
and benefits of prophylactic transfusion based
on silent MRI lesions have not been determined. Intervention in patients with silent
lesions and additional indicators of cerebral
dysfunction or abnormality have been suggested, but no recommendation for treatment can
be made at this time.
reported. However, there is no clear justification to exclude SCD patients from t-PA therapy, and it remains the only therapy approved
by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
for treatment of ischemic stroke.
According to established guidelines,
use of t-PA is indicated when:
the patient is at least 18 years old.
the patient’s National Institutes of Health
Stroke Scale score is greater than 4
(ischemic stroke in any vessel with
a clinically significant deficit).
t-PA therapy can begin within 3 hours
of symptom onset.
cranial CT shows no evidence
of hemorrhage.
The CSSCD confirmed the relatively high
rates of stroke in adults with SCD and the
predominance of hemorrhage compared with
infarction in adults with SCD. There is less
information on treatment and prevention in
adults with SCD. The clinician must decide
whether to approach a patient with TIA or
stroke who has SCD in a manner similar to
that used in children with SCD, or along
guidelines established for adults without SCD
(26,27). The interaction of SCD-specific risk
factors with risks factors for stroke seen in
adults without SCD has not been determined,
although high blood pressure was identified
as a stroke risk in the CSSCD. Specifically, the
role of chronic transfusion is unclear. The recommendations that follow are based primarily
on current recommendations for treatment and
prevention in patients without SCD (figure 3).
Treatment of hyperacute ischemic stroke in
adults is accomplished using recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA). It is not
clear whether t-PA, which has a significant risk
of bleeding, is appropriate for patients with
SCD; no experience with its use has been
Thrombolytic therapy cannot be
recommended if:
stroke duration is longer than 3 hours.
INR is greater than 1.7 or PT of 15 seconds.
patient received heparin in last 48 hours
and has a prolonged aPTT.
platelet count is less than 100,000/µL.
patient has had a stroke or serious head
injury in the past 3 months.
patient underwent major surgery within
the preceding 14 days.
pretreatment blood pressure is greater
than 185 mmHg systolic or 110 mmHg
patient has rapidly improving neurological
signs or isolated ataxia, sensory loss,
dysarthria or minimal weakness.
patient has a history of intracranial
blood glucose is less than 50 mg/dL or
greater than 400 mg/dL.
Figure 3. Adult with SCD and Symptoms
Adult with SCD
with symptoms
Immediate CT—no contrast
Other etiology—
treat as
Ischemic stroke
or negative
Consider TPA
if < 3 hours
from onset
Evaluate/treat based
on source of bleeding
ASA 325 mg if no TPA
prevention with
agents, warfarin
suspicion of TIA
Chapter 13: Stroke and Central Nervous System Disease
patient had seizure at onset of symptoms.
patient has experienced GI or GU bleeding within the preceding 21 days.
In addition, t-PA should not be given unless
emergent care and appropriate facilities are
available. Caution is advised before giving t-PA
to patients with severe stroke, and careful explanation of the risk of bleeding to patient and
family is advised. There is a 6.4 percent risk of
symptomatic brain hemorrhage, and about half
of these are fatal. If a hemorrhage occurs, the
guidelines suggest red cell transfusions as needed (for extracranial bleeds) and urgent administration of 4 to 6 units of cryoprecipitate or
fresh frozen plasma and 1 unit of single donor
platelets. Surgical drainage of intracranial hemorrhage should be considered. Although t-PA
can be given to patients on antiplatelet agents,
these drugs, as well as any dose of heparin,
should not be given for the first 24 hours after
using t-PA. There is evidence that aspirin (325
mg one-time dose) within the first 48 hours
after stroke onset has a small beneficial effect
and is recommended if t-PA is not used.
The acute evaluation of the patient requires
a noncontrast CT scan to rule out hemorrhage.
After the decision is made regarding t-PA, an
MR study of the brain is recommended to
better delineate the area of ischemia/infarction.
Prevention of stroke in patients with TIA or
stroke is accomplished with either antiplatelet
agents or warfarin, based on the likely cause
of the symptoms.
The following workup is recommended for
adults presenting with TIA or ischemic stroke:
CBC with differential and platelet count;
EKG; transthoracic echocardiogram with consideration given to transesophageal echocardiogram, especially in younger patients; aPTT;
PT; and a brain study to include MRI, DWI,
and MRA, and/or TCD and carotid duplex
ultrasound or CT angiography to determine
the status of the intracranial and extracranial
vessels. Blood tests for protein C and S deficiency, homocysteine elevation, and anticardiolipin antibodies may be appropriate. Health
care providers also should consider etiologies
seen in young patients with stroke without
SCD, including CNS infection, illicit drug
use, and arterial dissection.
Table 1. Use of Antithrombotic Agents in Patients With TIAs
Recommended Therapy
Therapeutic Options
TIA (atherothrombotic)
acetylsalic acid (aspirin, ASA)
50–325 mg/d
extended-release dipyridamole (ER-DP)
200 mg + ASA 25 mg
Clopidogrel 75 mg/d
ASA 50–1300 mg/d
TIA (atherothrombotic) and
aspirin-intolerant1, or if TIA
occurs during ASA therapy2
ER-DP 200 mg + ASA 25
mg BID
Clopidogrel 75 mg/d
Warfarin (INR 2–3)
ASA 50–1300 mg/d
TIA (cardioembolic)
Warfarin, target INR 2.5
(range 2–3)
ASA 50–325 mg/d
(if warfarin is contraindicated)
Neither ER-DP + ASA or ASA alone is recommended for patients who are allergic to aspirin or unable to take low-dose aspirin.
recommended antithrombotic agents have not been specifically tested in patients who have experienced a TIA during ASA therapy.
2 The
results do not meet criteria for treatment
in the presence of other strong indications
of high risk, consideration should be given
to intervention on an individualized basis
unless enrollment in appropriate treatment
trials is an option.
There are currently three options for antiplatelet
therapy for secondary stroke prevention. Table
1 summarizes the American Stroke Association’s
recommendations regarding these agents.
These guidelines are similar to those for
prevention of stroke after completed brain
infarction (26,28).
Alternative therapy is chronic blood transfusion as used in children with SCD. Recently,
surgical bypass has been reported in a patient
with SCD. Surgical procedures that have been
developed to treat moyamoya syndrome may
be considered, due to the similarity in
anatomic location of the arterial disease in
moyamoya and SCD (29). These procedures
may be last-resort options for patients who
cannot be otherwise treated or who continue
to have brain infarction despite medical therapy. However, risk and benefit in this setting
have not been established and no recommendation can be made.
Adults with intracerebral hemorrhage should
be approached in the manner outlined above
for children, with the exception that nimodopine is recommended without qualification
for patients with subarachnoid hemorrhage (11).
Children with ischemic stroke should
undergo acute evaluation with CT scanning followed by intravenous hydration
and exchange transfusion to reduce
Hb S to <30 percent total hemoglobin.
In most cases this should be followed
by chronic transfusion (figure 1).
Children with intracranial hemorrhage
should be evaluated for a surgically correctable lesion. Following this, chronic
transfusion is recommended in cases
of severe vasculopathy or unrepaired
aneurysm (figure 1). Acute hydration
and short-term exchange transfusion
may be beneficial as well.
Adults presenting with acute ischemic
stroke should be evaluated for t-PA treatment (figure 3). If t-PA is not used, aspirin
(325 mg) is appropriate. Adults with TIA
or ischemic stroke should be evaluated for
the cause of the ischemia and therapy
should be guided by these findings.
Alternatives include antiplatelet agents and
warfarin. Chronic transfusion is an option,
as used in pediatric stroke prevention.
Primary prevention (figure 2). Children
with SCD 2 to 16 years of age should
be screened for stroke risk using TCD.
(Chronic transfusion should be strongly
considered in those with confirmed
abnormal TCD.) If TCD is unavailable
or technically inadequate, or if TCD
Ohene-Frempong K, Weiner SJ, Sleeper LA, et al.
Cerebrovascular accidents in sickle cell disease:
rates and risk factors. Blood 1998;91:288-94.
Powars DL. Management of cerebral vasculopathy
in children with sickle cell disease. Br J Haematol
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and Stroke rt-PA Acute Stroke Study Group. Tissue
plasminogen activator in acute ischemic stroke.
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Pavlakis SG. Neurologic complications of sickle
cell disease. Adv Pediatr 1989;36:247-76.
Kandeel AY, Zimmerman RA, Ohene-Frempong
K. Comparison of magnetic resonance angiograpy
and conventional angiography in sickle cell disease:
clinical significance and reliability. Neuroradiol
Williams LS, Garg BP, Cohen M, et al. Subtypes
of ischemic stroke in children and young adults.
Neurol 1997;49:1541-5.
Roach ES. Stroke in children. Curr Treat Options
Neurol 2000;2:295-304.
Adams RJ, McKie VC, Carl EM, et al. Long-term
stroke risk in children with sickle cell disease
screened with transcranial doppler. Ann Neurol
Powars DR, Conti PS, Wong WY, et al. Cerebral
vasculopathy in sickle cell anemia: diagnostic contribution of positron emission tomography. Blood
Mayberg MR, Batjer HH, Dacey R, et al.
Guidelines for the management of aneurysmal
subarachnoid hemorrhage. Stroke 1994;25:231-2.
Broderick JP, Adams HP, Barsan W, et al.
Guidelines for the management of spontaneous
intracerebral hemorrhage. Stroke 1999;30:905-15.
Russell MO, Goldberg HI, Hodson A, et al.
Effect of transfusion therapy on arteriographic
abnormalities and on recurrence of stroke
in sickle cell disease. Blood 1984;63:162-9.
Pegelow CH, Adams RJ, McKie V, et al. Risk of
recurrent stroke in patients with sickle cell disease
treated with erythrocyte transfusions. J Pediatr
Malinow MR, Bostom AG, Krauss RM.
Homocyst(e)ine, diet, and cardiovascular diseases:
a statement for health care professionals from the
nutrition committee, American Heart Association.
Circulation 1999;99:178-82.
Westerman MP, Green D, Gilman-Sachs A, et al.
Antiphospholipid antibodies, proteins C and S,
and coagulation changes in sickle cell disease.
J Lab Clin Med 1999;134:352-62.
Tam DA. Protein C and protein S activity
in sickle cell disease and stroke. J Child Neurol
17. Wang WC, Kavaar EH, Tonkin IC, et al. High risk
of recurrent stroke after discontinuance of five to
twelve years of transfusion therapy in patients with
sickle cell disease. J Pediatr 1991;118:377-82.
18. Rana S, Houston PE, Surana N. Discontinuation
of long-term transfusion therapy in patients with
sickle cell disease. J Pediatr 1997;131:757-60.
19. Walters MC, Storb R, Patience M, et al. Impact
of bone marrow transplantation for symptomatic
sickle cell disease: an interim report. Blood
20. Ware RE, Zimmerman SA, Schultz WH.
Hydroxyurea as an alternative to blood transfusions
for the prevention of recurrent stroke in children
with sickle cell disease. Blood 1999;94:3022-6.
21. Adams RJ, McKie VC, Hsu L, et al. Prevention of
a first stroke by transfusions in children with sickle
cell anemia and abnormal results on transcranial
Doppler ultrasonography. N Eng J Med
22. Seibert J, Glasier C, Kirby R, et al. Transcranial
Doppler (TCD), MRA and MRI as a screening
examination for cerebrovascular disease in patients
with sickle cell anemia—an eight year study.
Pediatr Radiol 1998;28:138-42.
23. Miller ST, Sleeper LA, Pegelow CH, et al.
Prediction of adverse outcomes in children with
sickle cell disease. N Engl J Med 2000;342:83-9.
24. Moser FG, Miller ST, Bello JA, et al. The spectrum
of brain MR abnormalities in sickle cell disease:
a report from the cooperative study of sickle cell
disease. Am J Neuroradiol 1996;17:965-72.
25. Kinney TR, Sleeper LA, Wang WC, et al. Silent
cerebral infarcts in sickle cell anemia: a risk factor
analysis. Pediatrics 1999;103:640-5.
26. Wolf P, Clagett GP, Easton JD, et al. Preventing
ischemic stroke in patients with prior stroke and
transient ischemic attack. A statement for health
care professionals from the Stroke Council of the
American Council of the American Heart
Association. Stroke 1999;30:1991-4.
27. Albers GW, Hart RG, Lutsep HL, et al. Scientific
statement: supplement to the guidelines for the
management of transient ischemic attacks. Stroke
28. Albers GW, Amarenco P, Easton JD, et al.
Antithrombotic and thrombolytic therapy for
ischemic stroke. Chest 2001;119:300S-320S.
29. Vernet O, Montes JL, O’Gorman AM, et al.
Encephaloduroarterio-synangiosis in a child with
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Neurol 1996;14:226-30.
Sickle cell vaso-occlusive events can affect
every vascular bed in the eye, often with devastating visual consequences. Because early
stages of sickle cell eye disease do not usually
result in visual symptoms, the disease can go
undetected unless a formal eye exam is performed by an ophthalmologist. The examination should include an accurate measurement
of visual acuity, assessment of pupillary
reactivity, careful evaluation of the anterior
structures of the eye using a slit-lamp biomicroscope, and a thorough examination of
the posterior and peripheral retina through
a dilated pupil. This last examination should
include fluorescein angiography. Patients with
sickle hemoglobinopathies should have yearly
eye examinations beginning in childhood and
continuing through adulthood.
The clinical manifestations of sickle hemoglobinopathies are grouped according to the
presence or absence of neovascularization in
the eye. The distinction is clinically relevant
because proliferation of new blood vessels on
the retina is the key biological event that sets
the stage for progression to vitreous hemorrhage and retinal detachment.
Non-neovascular ocular manifestations of sickle
hemoglobinopathies include conjunctival
vascular occlusions that transform smooth
vessels into comma-shaped fragments, iris
atrophy, retinal hemorrhages, retinal pigmentary changes, and other abnormalities of the
retinal vasculature, macula, choroid, and optic
disc. These clinical findings are readily apparent on dilated ophthalmoscopy, and all occur
due to local vaso-occlusive events but rarely
have visual consequences.
Progression to neovascularization or to the
proliferative stage involves the growth of
abnormal vascular fronds that place patients
at risk of vitreous hemorrhage and retinal
detachment. The initiating event in the pathogenesis of proliferative disease is thought to be
peripheral retinal arteriolar occlusions. Local
ischemia from repeated episodes of arteriolar
closure is presumed to trigger angiogenesis
through the production of endogenous vascular growth factors, such as vascular endothelial
growth factor and basic fibroblast growth factor (1,2). Goldberg has defined five stages of
proliferative retinopathy (3). In stage I, peripheral arteriolar occlusion is present. In stage II,
vascular remodeling occurs at the boundary
between perfused and nonperfused peripheral
retina with the formation of arteriovenous
anastomoses. In stage III, actual preretinal neovascularization occurs. The neovascular fronds
typically assume a shape that resembles the
marine invertebrate Gorgonia flabellum,
known commonly as the “sea fan.” Stage IV
is defined by the presence of vitreous hemorrhage, and stage V is defined by the presence
of retinal detachment. This last complication
Chapter 14: Sickle Cell Eye Disease
results from mechanical traction created
by chronic, enlarging fibrovascular retinal
membranes, with or without hole formation
in the retina.
Although peripheral vaso-occlusion may be
observed as early as 20 months of age (4),
clinically detectable retinal disease is found
most commonly between 15 and 30 years of
age (5). Sickle retinopathy is found more often
and earlier in SCD-SC, but is also common in
SCD-SS and sickle thalassemia. Observational
cohort studies have also shown that stages IV
and V retinopathy occur more often in SCDSC subjects than in those with SCD-SS (6). It
is a paradox that despite the less dramatic systemic consequences of their disease, subjects
with SCD-SC and sickle thalassemia are more
likely than SCD-SS patients to have serious
ocular manifestations. Research has not been
able to explain the reason for this profound
discrepancy in the severity of the retinal and
systemic manifestations among the various
sickle hemoglobinopathies (see the introductory material and chapter 2, Neonatal Screening,
for an overview of disease subtypes).
Diagnosis of proliferative retinopathy requires
examination through a dilated pupil utilizing
a wide-field indirect ophthalmoscope.
Evaluation of retinal blood flow is performed
with fluorescein angiography. Any patient
identified with retinopathy should be followed
by an ophthalmologist who specializes in
diseases of the retina.
Treatment is reserved for eyes that have
progressed to proliferative retinopathy, since
patients are at risk for severe visual loss from
bleeding and retinal detachment. Given the
high rate of spontaneous regression and lack
of progression of neovascularization in some
eyes, the indications for treatment of retinal
neovascularization are not always clear.
Therapeutic intervention usually is recommended in cases of bilateral proliferative disease, spontaneous hemorrhage, large elevated
neovascular fronds, rapid growth of neovascularization, and cases in which one eye has
already been lost to proliferative retinopathy.
The goal is early treatment to induce regression
of neovascular tissue before bleeding and retinal detachment occur. Techniques such as
diathermy, cryotherapy and laser photocoagulation have been used to cause involution of neovascular lesions. Of all of these methods, laser
photocoagulation has the fewest side effects.
If retinal detachment or nonclearing vitreous
hemorrhage is present, surgical intervention
is usually required. Surgical techniques include
vitrectomy with or without the placement of
a scleral buckle. Although modern vitreoretinal microsurgery can improve vision for many
patients with advanced sickle retinopathy,
it should be emphasized that surgery carries
a significant risk of intraoperative and postoperative complications including severe ocular
ischemia, recurrent hemorrhage, and elevated
eye pressure (7). To minimize the risk of such
complications, partial exchange transfusion
has been recommended prior to surgery, usually with a target of about 50 to 60 percent normal red cells, although there has never been
a controlled study demonstrating the efficacy
of this maneuver (8).
Immediate consultation with an ophthalmologist familiar with the management of individuals with hemoglobinopathies is required for
any individual with a sickle hemoglobinopathy, including sickle trait, who sustains eye
trauma. Anterior segment trauma may result
in hemorrhage into the anterior chamber of
the eye, allowing sickled erythrocytes to clog
the trabecular outflow channels and raise the
intraocular pressure, producing glaucoma. In
patients with sickle hemoglobinopathies, even
a moderate increase in eye pressure may cause
a significant reduction in perfusion of the
optic nerve and retina, putting the eye at risk
for ischemic optic atrophy and retinal artery
occlusion. In such instances patients may
require an emergent surgical washout of the
anterior chamber.
Trauma considerations aside, any patient with
a sickle hemoglobinopathy who has an acute
change in vision always should be referred
immediately to an ophthalmologist for a full
within minutes to hours after the onset of
symptoms. Treatment consists of hyperoxygenation combined with rapid reduction of
eye pressure utilizing surgical and medical
techniques. Vision loss from hemorrhage or
retinal detachment also calls for urgent care,
but, unlike acute vascular occlusion, can be
addressed appropriately within 24 to 48
hours. Any individual with a sickle hemoglobinopathy who sustains ocular or periocular
trauma should be examined immediately by
an ophthalmologist because of the increased
risk of visual loss from elevated eye pressure
associated with hemorrhage into the anterior
chamber (hyphema).
Beginning in childhood, all patients with
sickle hemoglobinopathies should have yearly
dilated examinations by an ophthalmologist
with expertise in retinal diseases. Any patient
with a sickle hemoglobinopathy who experiences a change in vision should be referred
for ophthalmologic consultation immediately.
Central retinal artery occlusion, an event which
usually results in permanent, devastating loss of
vision, is one of the few bona fide ophthalmic
emergencies which demands intervention
Cao J, Mathers MK, McLeod DS, et al.
Angiogenic factors in human proliferative sickle
cell retinopathy. Br J Ophthalmol 1999;83:838-46.
Aiello LP. Clinical implications of vascular growth
factors in proliferative retinopathies. Curr Opin
Ophthalmol 1997;8:19-31.
Goldberg MF. Classification and pathogenesis of
proliferative sickle retinopathy. Am J Ophthalmol
McLeod DS, Goldberg MF, Lutty GA. Dual perspective analysis of vascular formations in sickle
retinopathy. Arch Ophthalmol 1993;111:1234-45.
Condon PI, Serjeant GR. Photocoagulation in
proliferative sickle retinopathy: results of a 5
year study. Br J Ophthalmol 1980;64:832-40.
Clarkson JG. The ocular manifestations of sickle
cell disease: a prevalence and natural history study.
Trans Am Ophthalmol Soc 1992;90:481-504.
Rednam KRV, Jampol LM, Goldberg MF. Scatter
retinal photocoagulation for proliferative sickle cell
retinopathy. Am J Ophthalmol 1982;93:594-9.
Charache S. Eye disease in sickling disorders.
Hematol Oncol Clin North Am 1996;10:1357-62.
Cardiac exam findings are rarely normal in
sickle cell disease (SCD); the heart is usually
enlarged and the precordium hyperactive, systolic murmurs are found in most patients, and
premature contractions are often present in
adults (1). Physical work capacity is reduced
to about half in adults with sickle cell anemia
and 60 to 70 percent in children; this is related to the severity of the anemia. Cardiomegaly
and heart murmurs often raise the question
of whether or not congestive heart failure is
present. Contractility is normal and overt
congestive heart failure is uncommon, especially in children (2). When heart failure is
present, it often can be related to secondary
causes such as fluid overload. Cardiac output
is increased at rest and rises further with exercise (1). Electrocardiograms often have nonspecific abnormalities and can show signs of
ventricular enlargement. At rest, cardiac index
is 1.5 times normal value, and increases further
during exercise; it is not completely explained
by hemoglobin level or oxygen content, suggesting increased tissue extraction of oxygen.
One study evaluated cardiac function by
echocardiogram in 200 persons with SCD
who were 13 years of age or older (3).
Compared to normal controls, patients had
increased left and right ventricular and left
atrial chamber dimensions, increased interventricular septal thickness, and normal contractility. These dimensions, except for those of
the right ventricle, were inversely related to
the hemoglobin level and indicated cardiac
dilatation. Cardiac dilatation was also dependent on age. When homozygous α-thalassemia2 was present, left ventricular dimensions were
more normal, but wall thickness was increased
(4). This difference was postulated to be a
result of the higher hemoglobin levels caused
by α-thalassemia. Nevertheless, the response
to exercise was not improved, perhaps because
of the properties of abnormal sickle erythrocytes. Pericardial effusions were present in
10 percent of patients and were also inversely
related to hemoglobin level (3).
As a group, patients with anemia have lowerthan-expected systolic and diastolic blood
pressures and individuals with SCD are no
exception (5,6). This may be due to renal sodium wasting; however, its cause is not known
for certain. The blood pressure of patients with
SCD is higher than expected given the severity
of their anemia, suggesting the possibility that
they have “relative” hypertension (7). In a
study of 89 patients, there was an association
between higher blood pressures and stroke.
Survival decreased and the risk of stroke
increased as blood pressure rose, even though
the blood pressure at which these risks
increased was below the level defining early
hypertension in the normal population. This
suggested that “relative” hypertension was
pathogenetically important. Increased longevity, a higher prevalence of sickle cell nephropathy, and the consumption of high-calorie,
high-salt diets probably all contribute to the
rising prevalence of absolute hypertension in
Chapter 15: Cardiovascular Manifestations
patients with SCD. When this is added to the
apparent risks of even relative hypertension
and the fact that reducing blood pressure in
people without SCD can prevent the consequence of hypertension, it seems reasonable to
consider antihypertensive therapy in patients
with SCD with borderline hypertension.
Chest pain, a common entity in SCD, often
leads to patients being told they have had a
heart attack. Obvious myocardial infarction is
unusual, but it has been reported. Paradoxically,
coronary artery occlusion is not common, suggesting that small vessel disease is responsible
for the cardiac damage (2). Ischemic heart
disease can be present in patients with SCD
and should be considered in all individuals
with chest pain (8).
Sudden unexpected and unexplained death is
common in adults with sickle cell anemia (9,10).
Patients with SCD can have autonomic nervous
system dysfunction that may contribute to sudden death. A recent study in 24 patients found
14 patients (58.3 percent) to have cardiovascular autonomic dysfunction based on abnormal
values for at least two cardiovascular autonomic
function tests, whereas 10 (41.7 percent) had
preserved cardiovascular autonomic function.
In contrast, all control subjects had normal
cardiac autonomic function (9).
Documented congestive heart failure in sickle
cell anemia should be treated with the usual
methods. Severely anemic patients with symptoms of congestive heart failure or angina pectoris may be helped by cautiously increasing
their hemoglobin concentration by transfusion
or, if possible, with hydroxyurea (see chapter
25, Transfusion, Iron Overload, and Chelation
and chapter 26, Hydroxyurea, for general
information about treating anemia).
Currently, no trials in patients with sickle cell
anemia can guide decisions regarding when to
begin antihypertensive treatment, what agents
are most effective, what the blood pressure
goals of treatment should be, and whether
blood pressure reduction can reduce the incidence of stroke or prolong life. A reasonable
approach, based on experience in the general
hypertensive population where the risk of
stroke begins well below the normal blood
pressure of 140/90 mmHg, is to carefully
evaluate the patient and consider beginning
antihypertensive treatment when systolic blood
pressure rises by 20 mmHg or the diastolic
blood pressure increases by 10 mmHg. When
there is evidence of target organ damage from
heart disease, nephropathy and peripheral
vascular disease, treatment might be started
at pressures above 130/85 mmHg. Treatment
at pressures of 120/75 mmHg may be indicated when proteinuria is higher than 1 gram
per day. ACE inhibitors and calcium antagonists may be especially useful treatments; the
former appears to reduce proteinuria and preserve renal function, and the latter may induce
a higher rate of response in black patients.
Theoretically, diuretics, by causing hemoconcentration, might predispose to vaso-occlusion. In practice, it is not clear whether this
occurs, and their use is not contraindicated.
Diuretic dosing should take into consideration
the additive effects of obligate hyposthenuria
in patients with SCD. β-adrenergic receptor
blocking agents can also be used. Renindependent hypertension can result from focal
areas of renal ischemia. Severe blood pressure
increases in individuals with SCD should be
evaluated thoroughly to exclude this and other
forms of secondary hypertension.
Leight L, Snider TH, Clifford GO, Hellems HK.
Hemodynamic studies in sickle cell anemia.
Circulation 1994;10:653-62.
2. Covitz W. Cardiac Disease. In: Embury SH,
Hebbel RP, Mohandas N, et al., eds. Sickle
Cell Disease: Basic Principles and Clinical Practice.
New York: Lippincott-Raven, 1994:725-34.
3. Covitz W, Espeland M, Gallagher D, et al.
The heart in sickle cell anemia. The cooperative
study of sickle cell disease (CSSCD). Chest
4. Braden DS, Covitz W, Milner PF. Cardiovascular
function during rest and exercise in patients with
sickle-cell anemia and coexisting alpha thalassemia2. Am J Hematol 1996;52:96-102.
5. Johnson CS, Giorgio AJ. Arterial blood pressure
in adults with sickle cell disease. Arch Intern Med
6. Pegelow CH, Colangelo L, Steinberg M, et al.
Natural history of blood pressure in sickle cell disease: risks for stroke and death associated with relative hypertension in sickle cell anemia. Am J Med
7. Rodgers GP, Walker EC, Podgor MJ. Is “relative”
hypertension a risk factor for vaso-occlusive complications in sickle cell disease. Am J Med Sci
8. Martin CR, Johnson CS, Cobb C, et al.
Myocardial infarction in sickle cell disease.
J Natl Med Assoc 1996;88:428-32.
9. Romero Mestre JC, Hernandez A, Agramonte O,
et al. Cardiovascular autonomic dysfunction in
sickle cell anemia: a possible risk factor for sudden
death? Clin Auton Res 1999;7:121-5.
10. James TN, Riddick L, Massing GK. Sickle cells
and sudden death: morphologic abnormalities of
the cardiac conduction system. J Lab Clin Med
The lung is a major target organ for acute
and chronic complications of sickle cell disease
(SCD). Acute chest syndrome (ACS) is a
frequent cause of death in both children and
adults (1-3) with SCD. Pulmonary problems
not directly related to sickle cell vaso-occlusion, such as pneumonia or asthma, can worsen SCD because local or systemic hypoxia
increases sickle hemoglobin (Hb S) polymerization. Multiorgan failure often is preceded
or accompanied by pulmonary involvement,
as observed with fat embolization in pain
episodes. There is more frequent recognition
of chronic pulmonary hypertension in adult
patients, as this complication gives a poor
prognosis even though pulmonary artery pressures are not very high compared to those in
patients with primary pulmonary hypertension.
Few of the management recommendations
below are based on randomized clinical trials,
since such trials are largely unavailable. The
proposed guidelines are based on reviews of
small case series in the literature, and on consensus among clinicians with experience in
SCD treatment.
ACS is an acute illness characterized by fever
and respiratory symptoms, accompanied by
a new pulmonary infiltrate on a chest x ray.
Because the appearance of radiographic
changes may be delayed (3), the diagnosis
may not be recognized immediately. A major
risk factor for the development of ACS is the
hemoglobin genotype: the highest incidence
is seen in βs/βs genotype (12.8 events/100 person-years) and the lowest in βs/β+ thalassemia
genotype (3.9 events/100 person-years) (4).
ACS is the second most common cause of
hospitalization in sickle cell patients and the
most common complication of surgery and
anesthesia (5). Children have higher incidences of ACS (21 events/100 person-years,
βs/βs genotype) but lower mortality (<2 percent) than adults (8.7 events /100 person-years
and 4-9 percent mortality) (3,6). In SCD-SS
persons, the incidence of ACS is related to
low fetal hemoglobin (Hb F) levels and high
steady-state hematocrits and white cell counts,
but not to coexistent α-thalassemia (4).
Children have seasonal variation in ACS
incidence: lower in the summer, but higher
in winter when respiratory infections are
frequent (6). The seasonal pattern is less
marked in adults. Even though the ACS
usually is self-limited, it can present with or
progress to respiratory failure, characterized
by noncardiogenic pulmonary edema and
severe hypoxemia. These critically ill patients
need both respiratory support and emergency
transfusions (see below).
The Multicenter Acute Chest Syndrome
Study (MACSS) group enrolled 538 patients
with 671 ACS episodes in a comprehensive,
standardized diagnostic and management
protocol (3). The protocol included bacteriology, virology, and serologic studies, as well as
Chapter 16: Acute Chest Syndrome and Other Pulmonary Complications
examination of bronchoscopy-obtained secretions or deep sputum samples. In 108 of 364
episodes (30 percent) with complete diagnostic data, all results were negative, which led,
by exclusion, to the diagnosis of pulmonary
infarction. Fifty-nine of the 364 episodes
(16.2 percent) had pulmonary fat embolization (PFE) defined by the finding of lipidladen macrophages in broncho-alveolar lavage
specimens. About one-third of the PFE cases
showed evidence of infection. Previous studies
on mostly older patients had reported higher
prevalences of PFE (44 to 77 percent) in ACS
(7,8). Patients with PFE tend to be older and
have lower oxygen saturations (3). An infectious agent was identified in 197 episodes (54
percent) but a wide variety of microorganisms
was found, the most common of which were
chlamydia (48 episodes, 13 percent), mycoplasma (44 episodes, 12 percent) and viruses
(43 episodes, 12 percent). In 30 ACS episodes
(8.2 percent), bacteria were isolated, which
included Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus
pneumoniae, and Hemophilus influenzae.
The MACSS reported findings from the first
ACS episode in 128 adults and 409 children
(82 percent with Hb SS genotype) (3). This
study used strict criteria to define ACS: a pulmonary infiltrate consistent with consolidation, plus at least one of the following: chest
pain, fever over 38.5˚C, tachypnea, wheezing,
or cough. An earlier series, the Cooperative
Study of Sickle Cell Disease (CSSCD)
enrolled 252 adults and 687 children (76
percent with SS genotype) who had a total
of 1722 episodes of ACS (6) defined by the
appearance of a new pulmonary infiltrate on
the chest x ray. Table 1 summarizes findings
from both of these prospective series.
Clearly, the MACSS enrolled more severely
ill patients than did the CSSCD, as shown
by more frequent use of red cell transfusions,
longer hospital stays, and higher death rate,
particularly in adult patients. In the MACSS,
multilobe involvement, history of cardiac disease, and lower platelet counts independently
predicted respiratory failure. Low platelet
counts also were associated with neurologic
Assessment of blood oxygenation requires determination of baseline arterial blood gases (ABG),
and estimation of the alveolar-arterial (A-a)
oxygen gradient and the PaO2/FiO2 ratio.
Oxygen should be administered to moderately
hypoxemic patients (PaO2 = 70-80 mmHg,
O2 saturation = 92-95 percent) nasally at
a rate of 2 liters per min. Chronically hypoxemic patients in whom the admission PaO2
is no lower than in their steady state may still
benefit from oxygen because they may not
tolerate additional hypoxemia due to ACS.
Control of chest pain and incentive spirometry
can prevent hypoventilation in most patients
(9). The efficacy of these interventions should
be checked with repeated ABGs as needed to
monitor the A-a gradient, which appears to
be the best predictor of clinical severity (10).
Patients with worsening A-a gradients should
be managed in an intensive care unit for adequate cardiorespiratory support.
Simple transfusions (or exchange transfusions)
decrease the proportion of sickle red cells and
are indicated for the treatment of ACS (3,11)
(see chapter 25, Transfusion, Iron Overload,
and Chelation). Transfusions will increase the
Table 1. Clinical Presentation and Course of Acute Chest Syndrome: Cooperative Study
of Sickle Cell Disease (CSSCD) and Multicenter Acute Chest Syndrome Study (MACSS)
Presenting symptoms and signs (percent)
Chest pain
Shortness of breath
Normal auscultation
Multiple lobe involvement, adults (percent)
Multiple lobe involvement, children (percent)
Pleural effusion, adults (percent)
Pleural effusion, children (percent)
Mean hemoglobin level (g/dL)
Mean change from steady-state Hb (g/dL)
- 0.7
- 0.8
Mean WBC/µL
Mean PaO2 at diagnosis (mmHg)
X-ray and laboratory findings
Mean O2 saturation at diagnosis (percent)
Bacteremia (percent)
Respiratory insufficiency, adults (percent on ventilator)
Respiratory insufficiency, children (percent on ventilator)
Neurologic event, (percent patients)
Antibiotics given (percent patients)
Hospital course, treatment, mortality
Bronchodilators used (percent patients)
Transfusions used (percent patients)
Mean number of units given
Mean hospital stay, adults (days)
Mean hospital stay, children (days)
Death rate, adults (percent)
Death rate, children (percent)
* Tachypnea was an inclusion criterion in the MACSS but not in the CSSCD series.
** Not reported.
*** SCD-SS patients.
**** Only 56 percent had arterial blood gas determinations.
Chapter 16: Acute Chest Syndrome and Other Pulmonary Complications
Table 2. Mean Room Air PaO2 in ACS before and after Transfusions
Before Transfusion
After Transfusion
Emre et al. (18)
65 mmHg
86 mmHg
0.0001 (N=16)
Vichinsky et al. (3)
63 mmHg
71 mmHg
0.001 (N=387)
oxygen affinity of blood in sickle cell patients
(12). The main indication for transfusion
therapy is poor respiratory function. The
goal is to prevent progression of ACS to acute
respiratory failure. Two studies, though nonrandomized, demonstrate the effect of blood
transfusion on oxygenation in ACS patients
(table 2).
From the data above, it would appear that
transfusions or exchange transfusions should
be initiated at the first sign of hypoxemia
(PaO2 below 70 mmHg on room air). For
patients with chronic hypoxemia, a drop in
PaO2 of greater than 10 percent from baseline
seems to be a reasonable transfusion trigger.
Transfusions may not be needed if the A-a
oxygen gradient is due to splinting from pain,
that is, if the gradient corrects with analgesia
and incentive spirometry. Transfusion therapy
should not be delayed, particularly in deteriorating patients. Altered mentation in such
patients is often erroneously attributed to opioid excess, delaying the therapy of progressive
acute chest syndrome.
Intravenous broad-spectrum antibiotics should
be given to febrile or severely ill ACS patients
since it is difficult to exclude bacterial pneumonia or superinfection of a lung infarct. The
MACSS used erythromycin and cephalosporin.
A macrolide or quinolone antibiotic always
should be included because atypical microorganisms are common (3).
Other measures
Optimal pain control and incentive spirometry
are important to prevent chest splinting and
atelectasis. A randomized controlled study
showed that incentive spirometry reduced
the risk of development of ACS by 88 percent
in patients hospitalized with thoracic bone
ischemia/infarction (9). Airway hyperreactivity
occurs in up to one-fourth of ACS patients
and is treated with bronchodilators. Fluid
overload should be avoided by the use of 5
percent dextrose in water or 1/2- or 1/4-normal saline, and by limiting the infusion rate to
1.5 times maintenance requirements (3). More
studies are needed to establish the safety and
efficacy of the use of dexamethasone (13) and
other approaches, such as nitric oxide inhalation (14), in the treatment of ACS.
The short-term prognosis of ACS with limited
lung involvement and only mild hypoxemia
is good. Some reports suggest an association
between chronic pulmonary disease and frequent ACS episodes (15,16), but others did
not find long-term lung damage in patients
with recurrent ACS (17). In any case, frequent
ACS episodes or painful events are associated
with shorter lifespans (4). The frequency of
ACS can be reduced by about 50 percent with
hydroxyurea treatment (18). Nonrandomized
observations suggest that transfusion regimens
can prevent ACS. A preliminary report from
the Stroke Prevention Trial in Sickle Cell
Anemia (STOP) showed that patients randomized to receive transfusions had significantly fewer ACS events (2.2/100 personyears), compared to patients in the nontransfused arm (15.7/100 person-years, p<0.001).
Because SFE is life-threatening but difficult to
recognize, a proposal for management includes
the following:
A high index of suspicion for SFE should
be maintained, and all cases of ACS are
considered to be at risk. Treatment of SFE
should not await proof of diagnosis, since
only two premortem findings prove SFE
in sickle cell or trauma patients: detection
of fat droplets within retinal vessels and
a biopsy of petechiae (22) that shows
microvascular fat. Urine fat stains are
unreliable. Indirect evidence of SFE in
sickle cell patients includes positive fat
stain in bronchial macrophages, lung
microvascular cells, or venous blood buffy
coat (23) and multiple areas of necrosis
on bone marrow scans. The descriptions
of these signs are anecdotal in SCD-related
SFE (and in non-SCD patients with fat
emboli due to trauma).
As in cases of severe ACS, support in a
critical care setting is essential to manage
respiratory insufficiency and multiorgan
failure. Case reports suggest that prompt
transfusion or exchange transfusion may
prevent some deaths from SFE (20). Since
fat embolism causes severe hypoxemia
which promotes Hb S polymerization,
it seems likely that transfused normal
blood will dilute the patient’s sickle cells
and improve pulmonary and systemic
microvascular circulation. Survival in sickle cell patients with SFE has been reported
only in those treated with transfusions.
Bone marrow infarction and necrosis is
a known complication of SCD (19). When
an infarct is massive, necrotic marrow and fat
embolize to the pulmonary vasculature. Fat
droplets can enter the systemic circulation,
which results in systemic fat embolization
(SFE) syndrome. Thus, in addition to respiratory insufficiency, patients can develop multiorgan failure from emboli in organs such as the
brain and kidneys. SFE can affect patients
with even the mildest forms of SCD. Few case
reports are available (20,21), but risk factors for
SFE appear to be a βs/βc genotype, pregnancy,
and prior corticosteroid treatment. Clinical
signs of SFE vary and depend on the organs
involved and the degree of involvement.
Initially there may be a painful event, but
patients can present with or develop a fever,
hypoxemia, azotemia, liver damage, altered
mental state, or coma. Hematologic signs
include progressive anemia, normoblastemia,
thrombocytopenia, and disseminated intravascular coagulation. A high index of suspicion for
SFE should be maintained, even though this
diagnosis is hard to prove. Fortunately, SFE
is often preceded or accompanied by pulmonary involvement (severe chest syndrome,
pulmonary fat embolism), so that transfusions
given to hypoxemic ACS patients may prevent
or inhibit its development.
Airway hyperreactivity (asthma) is not a classical feature of SCD, but transgenic mouse
models of SCD have airway obstruction that
is responsive to albuterol. Cold air challenge
Chapter 16: Acute Chest Syndrome and Other Pulmonary Complications
induced hyperresponsiveness in 83 percent
of asymptomatic children with SCD who had
a history of reactive airways (24). Also, two
large prospective studies of ACS described
above reported wheezing in 11 percent (6)
and 26 percent (3) of patients on admission.
In the latter group, the mean predicted forced
expiratory volume was 53 percent, and 61
percent of patients were treated with bronchodilators. Twenty percent of ACS patients
improved with bronchodilators and had a 15
percent increase in predicted forced expiratory
volume (3). Like nonhemoglobinopathy subjects, asthmatic sickle cell patients are treated
with inhaled bronchodilators, with or without
inhaled steroids. Steroids can be added systemically to manage acute asthma, but sickle cell
patients should be monitored for the development of vaso-occlusive events.
Pulmonary hypertension (PHT), defined as
a mean pulmonary artery pressure above 25
mmHg, can be secondary to SCD (20), but
its prevalence is not known. In sickle cell
patients the frequency of chronic lung disease
with cor pulmonale is reported at 4.3 percent.
PHT is probably more frequent in adult
patients (20), although it was not listed as an
underlying condition in 209 adult CSSCD
patients who died during that study (25).
The mechanisms for PHT in SCD are not
known. One or more of the following factors
could be responsible: sickle cell-related vasculopathy, chronic oxygen desaturation or sleep
hypoventilation (26), pulmonary damage from
recurrent chest syndrome (15), repeated
episodes of thromboembolism (27), or high
pulmonary blood flow due to anemia. The
last reason, combined with decreased lung
vasculature, also was given as a cause of PHT
in thalassemia intermedia (28). Regardless
of the exact mechanism, the development of
PHT raises the risk for cor pulmonale, recurrent pulmonary thrombosis, and worsened
hypoxemia, all of which increase the frequency
and severity of vaso-occlusive episodes (pain
events, ACS) in SCD (15).
The diagnosis of PHT should be considered in
sickle cell patients with (a) increased intensity
of the second heart sound, (b) right ventricular
enlargement on chest x ray, EKG, or echocardiogram, or (c) unexplained oxygen desaturation. As PHT worsens, patients complain
of chest pain and dyspnea, and have hypoxemia at rest. Additional problems are rightsided heart failure, syncope, and a risk of sudden death from pulmonary thromboembolism,
systemic hypotension, or cardiac arrhythmia.
Unless an echocardiogram shows tricuspid
regurgitation with increased pulmonary artery
pressure, the diagnosis of PHT requires rightsided cardiac catheterization. In a few patients
whose catheterization results were published,
the pulmonary pressures were lower and cardiac outputs (measured by thermodilution)
were higher than in primary PHT (20).
There is no proven treatment for sickle cellrelated PHT. Therefore, recommendations are
tentative and based mostly on what is known
about the treatment of primary PHT. During
cardiac catheterization, vasodilators or oxygen
may be given to see if they reduce pulmonary
pressure acutely in order to predict the benefit
of long-term administration. Continuous infusion of prostacyclin, a vasodilator and inhibitor
of platelet aggregation, improves pulmonary
artery pressure and survival in primary PHT
(29), and also may be effective in secondary
PHT (30). This drug also causes some patients
with SCD-related PHT to respond during
cardiac catheterization (31), but there are no
published data on long-term use. Other agents
used to treat primary PHT are the calciumchannel blockers nifedipine and diltiazem
(32), and these or similar medications could
be tried in responsive sickle cell patients.
Long-term anticoagulation with warfarin
[to an international normalized ratio (INR)
of 2-3] is used in primary PHT because of
the risk of thromboembolism (29) and also
may be useful for SCD-related PHT (27).
Continuous or nocturnal oxygen therapy
decreases pulmonary artery pressure in patients
who are hypoxemic from various lung disorders. It should be used in SCD-related PHT
if it lowers pulmonary pressure at cardiac
catheterization, and in chronically hypoxemic
patients (PaO2 <60 mmHg, O2 saturation
<90 percent). A red cell transfusion program
would help to reduce the incidence of vasoocclusive events, ACS, lung scarring, and
PHT in some patients. Hydroxyurea would
be expected to have the same effect, but it
does not seem to prevent the development
of PHT in SCD.
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24. Leong MA, Dampier C, Varlotta L, et al. Airway
hyperreactivity in children with sickle cell disease.
J Pediatr 1997;131:278-83.
25. Platt OS, Brambilla DJ, Rosse WF, et al. Mortality
in sickle cell disease. Life expectancy and risk
factors for early death. N Engl J Med
26. Samuels MP, Stebbens VA, Davies, SC, et al. Sleep
related upper airway obstruction and hypoxaemia
in sickle cell disease. Arch Dis Child 1992;67:925-9.
27. Yung GL, Channick RN, Fedullo PF, et al.
Successful pulmonary thromboendarterectomy
in two patients with sickle cell disease. Am J Respir
Crit Care Med 1998;157:1690-3.
28. Aessopos A, Stamatelos G, Skoumas V, et al.
Pulmonary hypertension and right heart failure
in patients with β-thalassemia intermedia. Chest
29. Barst RJ, Rubin LJ, Long WA, et al. A comparison
of continuous intravenous epoprostenol (prostacyclin) with conventional therapy for primary
pulmonary hypertension. N Engl J Med
30. McLaughlin V, Genthner DE, Panella MM, et al.
Compassionate use of continuous prostacyclin
in the management of secondary pulmonary
hypertension: a case series. Ann Intern Med
31. Kaur K, Brown B, Lombardo F. Prostacyclin for
secondary pulmonary hypertension. Ann Intern
Med 2000;132:165.
32. Rich S, Kaufmann E, Levy PS. The effect of high
doses of calcium-channel blockers on survival in
primary pulmonary hypertension. N Engl J Med
Dysfunction of the liver and biliary tract is
a common complication of sickle cell disease
(SCD) and its variants. Despite nearly 200
reports in the past 15 years on the hepatobiliary aspects of the sickling disorders, the
frequency and pathophysiology responsible
for hepatic lesions remain unclear.
Hepato-biliary complications of the sickling
disorders can be separated into broad categories of disorders related to hemolysis, the
problems of anemia and transfusion management, the consequences of sickling and vasoocclusion, and diseases unrelated to sickle
hemoglobin (Hb S). These complications of
the sickling disorders are most common in
sickle cell anemia (SCD-SS), but also occur to
a lesser extent in the compound heterozygous
sickle diseases, SCD-SC and the β-thalassemia
syndromes (SCD-S βo thal and SCD-S β+ thal).
Chronic hemolysis, with its accelerated bilirubin turnover, leads to a high incidence of pigment gallstones. Ordinarily, bilirubin levels in
SCD patients do not exceed 4 mg/dL from
hemolysis alone, and the conjugated fraction is
less than 10 percent (1,2). Marked increases in
the unconjugated fraction have been reported
in association with the UDP-glucuronyltransferase genetic defect of Gilbert’s syndrome (3).
Ultrasound surveys of patient populations
indicate the onset of cholelithiasis occurs as
early as 2 to 4 years of age and progressively
increases in prevalence with age (4); nearly
30 percent of patients develop cholelithiasis
by age 18. African populations appear to have
a substantially lower prevalence than that of
Jamaican or North American patients (5); this
variation is attributed to differences in dietary
cholesterol or fiber, although other factors
(genetic or environmental) also may have an
influence. Xenobiotics such as the third generation cephalosporins may crystallize in the
gallbladder, and differences in the use of such
antibiotics could account for some of the geographic variation in cholelithiasis frequency.
The coinheritance of α-thalassemia appears
to reduce the frequency of stones as the result
of a lesser degree of hemolysis (6). Common
duct obstruction is frequently incomplete
because pigment stones are small but they
still can cause the characteristic biochemical
changes of cholestasis. Gallstones have been
known to pass with or without pancreatitis.
Biliary sludge is a viscous material detectable
by nonacoustic shadowing on ultrasonography
(7) and may be a precursor of gallstone development. Certain antibiotics such as ceftriaxone seem to promote sludge formation.
Studies in patients with SCD indicate that
sludge is often found with stones, but sludge
alone may or may not progress to stone formation. However, the period of followup of
such studies is short (8,9).
Chapter 17: Gall Bladder and Liver
Fever, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain
are common events with a wide differential
diagnosis, including hepatic, intestinal, pancreatic, vertebral, neurologic, and pulmonary
disorders (table 1).
A careful clinical evaluation is necessary to
establish a clear diagnosis. Biliary scintigraphy
might be helpful, but its use is controversial
because of a high false positive rate and low
positive predictive value. However, it has a
high negative predictive value since a normal
study indicates that the cystic duct is patent.
False positives can result from prolonged fasting, severe hepatocellular disease, extrahepatic
obstruction, chronic cholecystitis, or narcoticinduced spasm of the sphincter of Oddi (10).
Table 1. Unusual Causes of Right Upper Quadrant
(RUQ) Pain and Abnormal Liver Tests
Reported in Sickling Disorders
Focal nodular hyperplasia of the liver in children
Fungal ball
Hepatic artery stenosis
Hepatic infarct/abscess
Hepatic vein thrombosis
Mesenteric/colonic ischemia
Periappendiceal abscess
Pericolonic abscess
Pulmonary infarct/abscess
Renal vein thrombosis
The Tc-99 RBC scan may prove more useful
in detecting the hyperemia of acute cholecystitis, but its use with these patients has not
been reported.
Treatment of acute cholecystitis does not
differ from that for the general population
and consists of antibiotics and general supportive care with consideration for elective
cholecystectomy several weeks after the acute
episode subsides.
Laparoscopic cholecystectomy on an elective
basis in a well-prepared patient has become
the standard approach to symptomatic
patients. However, symptoms attributed to
cholecystitis often persist after cholecystectomy. Because intraoperative cholangiography
(IOC) has a false positive rate estimated at 25
percent, endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) at the time of laparoscopic cholecystectomy is preferred. IOC is
still useful, however, for delineating the anatomy of the cystic duct and its artery. The decision to proceed to cholecystectomy should be
based on the natural history of the disorder in
this patient population. The Jamaican data (4)
provide the strongest argument for a conservative approach, but Jamaican patients seem to
be substantially less symptomatic than are
North American patients. An aggressive
approach provides the benefit of reducing the
risk of the morbid complications of cholelithiasis, as well as eliminating gallbladder disease
as a confounding item in the differential
diagnosis of right upper quadrant pain. For
asymptomatic patients, the data support a
conservative approach, but there is considerable controversy.
Acute viral hepatitis has the same clinical
course in patients with sickling disorders as
in the general population, but with a higher
peak bilirubin level because of hemolysis.
Surveys for serologic evidence of hepatitis
B infection show a wide range of prevalence,
related to the endemicity of the virus as well
as to past transfusion practices (1). Fulminant
hepatitis occurs with a high mortality in
0.5 percent of the general population, and
chronicity is inversely related to age. Thus
vaccination early in life seems to be indicated;
patients with SCD respond as well as the
general population.
Similar surveys for hepatitis C infection indicate that this infection is clearly related to
transfusion practice and geographic location
and that chronic hepatitis is as frequent in
patients with SCD as in the general population (11). In the general population, fulminant hepatitis is unusual, but as many as 65
percent will develop chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis. Chronic hepatitis is subtle, with only
25 percent of patients having AST/ALT as
high as twice normal values. In SCD, cirrhosis
occurs, and liver transplants are now being
done (12). Chronic hepatitis C is associated
with extrahepatic manifestations that can
confound the management of SCD. These
include a cutaneous leucocytoclastic vasculitis
and essential mixed cryoglobulinemia with
purpura, arthralgias, glomerulonephritis, and
peripheral neuropathy.
In studies of patients with persistent elevations
of AST/ALT, biopsy invariably shows evidence
of chronic hepatitis (13,14). Treatment of
chronic viral hepatitis is based upon observations that sustained suppression of viral replication renders patients noninfectious, reduces
the inflammatory process, and slows the
subsequent development of cirrhosis and
hepatocellular carcinoma.
Indications for treatment of hepatitis B
include HBsAg positivity for more than
6 months, HBV DNA positivity, and persistent elevation of ALT or biopsy evidence for
chronic hepatitis.
For hepatitis C, persistent elevation of
AST/ALT, positive PCR for viral RNA,
or biopsy evidence of chronic hepatitis
are indications for treatment.
Autoimmune hepatitis has been reported in
5 patients (15). It is characterized histologically
by dense T-cell infiltrates in periportal areas
with bridging fibrosis and piecemeal necrosis
and by a marked polyclonal gammopathy. It
is associated with extrahepatic manifestations
of arthropathy, rash, and leg ulcers. Treatment
of sickle cell patients with plasma exchange
has been successful. Data from the hepatology
literature indicate that prednisone and
azathioprine given for 24 months initially
induce a clinical remission that is followed
by biochemical, then histological, remission.
Iron overload develops as a result of frequent
transfusions, although genetic hemochromatosis does occur. Hepatic iron stores can be measured biochemically or by a superconducting
quantum interference device susceptometer,
but this instrument is not widely available.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) comparing the signal intensity of liver, pancreas, and
spleen to that of muscle is useful for detecting
iron overload, but MRI is not very sensitive
Chapter 17: Gall Bladder and Liver
to gradations of iron load. Decrease in signal
intensity from the pancreas is a very useful
index for hemochromatosis. Serum ferritin
levels may be disproportionately elevated
relative to the degree of iron stores because of
factors such as ascorbate deficiency, inflammation, or liver disease (16). The isotope Ga-67
is carried by transferrin, and Ga-67 citrate
may prove to be useful in the demonstration
of iron overload but requires further study.
The importance of iron load is illustrated
by results from a study of children receiving
transfusion for the prevention of stroke; their
serum ferritin levels rose 10-fold at an average
followup of 42 months and this increase was
associated with an 8-fold rise in AST/ALT
(17). In a study of women receiving supportive transfusion during pregnancy, incidental
liver biopsy performed during abdominal
surgery showed that two-thirds had significant
hepatocyte iron accumulation after an average
transfusion burden of 13.6 units (18).
Hepatic crisis, or right upper quadrant
syndrome (RUQ), consists of RUQ pain,
fever, jaundice, elevated AST/ALT, and hepatic
enlargement. It occurs in as many as 10 percent of patients with acute vaso-occlusive crisis
(VOC). The rapid decrease in AST/ALT
differentiates this condition from the slower
decline characteristic of acute viral hepatitis.
In one study of 30 patients, liver tests taken
at the time of uncomplicated VOC and 4
weeks later in the steady state showed that
the alkaline phosphatase level was 30 percent
higher during VOC; ALT was three-fold
higher, and bilirubin was elevated two-fold,
primarily due to elevation of the conjugated
fraction (21). Treatment with supportive care
was the only modality needed.
The standard subcutaneous regimens for
deferoxamine therapy successfully chelate
excess iron. Complications of therapy
include ophthalmic- or oto-toxicity, allergic
reactions, growth failure, and unusual infections (Yersinia, fungi).
Poor patient compliance is an unresolved
problem. Because poor compliance can be an
issue, periodic intensive intravenous deferoxamine therapy is often given. Aggressive chelation with intravenous doses of 6 to 12 grams
daily has produced rapid declines in serum
ferritin and ALT, and improvement in cardiac
function and other indices. Adverse effects
have not been noted in short-term therapy,
although zinc excretion is increased (19).
The hepatic complications attributed to vascular occlusion encompass a variety of clinical
syndromes for which our understanding of
the relationships among clinical presentation,
biochemical findings, and histologic features
remains unclear. In many patients, the liver
is generally enlarged throughout life, especially
when its measurement is adjusted for body
size (20).
RUQ pain and jaundice present a problem
in differential diagnosis because prominent
abdominal pain is associated with a wide
variety of conditions that affect SCD patients
(table 1). Additional imaging techniques are
useful in establishing these diagnoses. Hepatic
infarction is seen as a characteristic wedgeshaped, peripherally located hypointense
lesion on CT scan. Single or multiple abscesses have been described with an irregular shape
on CT scan. Focal nodular hyperplasia of
the liver has been seen with a characteristic
avascular mass on angiography.
Acute hepatic sequestration, a rarely recognized complication of VOC, is characterized
by a rapidly enlarging liver accompanied by a
decrease in hemoglobin/hematocrit and a rise
in reticulocyte count. The liver is smooth and
variably tender. The bilirubin may be as high
as 24 mg/dL (or even higher) with a predominance of the conjugated fraction. The alkaline
phosphatase can be as high as 650 IU/L or
may be normal; the transaminases may be
elevated only minimally but are often normal.
Ultrasonography and CT scanning show only
diffuse hepatomegaly. Liver biopsy shows
massively dilated sinusoids with sickled erythrocytes and Kupffer cell erythrophagocytosis. Intrahepatic cholestasis with bile plugs
in canaliculi may be seen. Hepatocyte necrosis
is unusual. Recurrence is common.
Acute and chronic cholestatic syndromes
have been attributed to a wide variety of
clinical entities in patients with SCD.
Simple transfusion, exchange transfusion,
or supportive care alone can resolve hepatic
sequestration. In one patient, treated with
simple transfusion, resolution of sequestration
was accompanied by a rapid increase in the
concentration of circulating hemoglobin,
representing return of sequestered red cells
to the circulation; this resulted in a fatal acute
hyperviscosity syndrome (22). Because of this
risk with simple transfusion, exchange transfusion is preferred; however, careful monitoring
still is required.
Acute hepatic failure has been reported in
several cases where massive hepatic necrosis
was seen in the absence of markers for viral
hepatitis. However, clinical and biological
profiles improved rapidly after exchange
transfusion therapy.
A benign cholestatic picture has been described
in which there are striking elevations of bilirubin with only modest elevations of alkaline
phosphatase and transaminases; there is no
impairment of hepatic synthetic function, as
reflected by the prothrombin time and activated partial thromboplastin time. The patients
are asymptomatic except for jaundice or
pruritus. Fever, abdominal pain, and gastrointestinal upset are conspicuously absent. Drug
reactions can be implicated in some cases,
and measurement of anti-kidney/liver microsomal antibodies can assist in diagnosis. In
all instances, resolution of cholestasis occurs
within months in the absence of specific
therapy (1,23).
In contrast, progressive cholestasis in the
absence of cirrhosis has been reported in a
number of cases. These cases are characterized
by RUQ pain, extreme elevation of bilirubin,
striking elevation of alkaline phosphatase, and
variable elevation of transaminases. Renal failure, thrombocytopenia, and severe prolongation of coagulation test results are present.
Liver histology in both benign and progressive
forms of cholestasis shows intrasinusoidal sickling and Kupffer cell hyperplasia with phagocytosis of sickled erythrocytes. Mortality due
to uncontrollable bleeding or hepatic failure
is common (1,24). All survivors have been
treated with exchange red cell transfusion;
plasmapheresis with fresh frozen plasma and
platelet transfusion support have been used
to control bleeding due to hemostatic failure.
Chapter 17: Gall Bladder and Liver
Biliary sludge is best managed by serial
ultrasound examinations at 12- to 24-month
intervals unless cholestasis occurs; at that
point, laparoscopic cholecystectomy is indicted. Elective laparoscopic cholecystectomy has
become the procedure of choice for symptomatic cholelithiasis (25) because of the shortened hospital stay, lower cost, and fewer immediate surgical complications. One approach
to asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic
cholelithiasis is careful observation until symptoms dictate surgery. Bacteremia, ascending
cholangitis, empyema, and other hyperacute
biliary complications require surgery on
a more urgent basis, consistent with good
surgical practice.
The management of chronic hepatitis is
beyond the scope of this treatise but requires
close coordination with gastroenterologists
and the judicious use of liver biopsy to guide
diagnosis and therapeutic decisions.
Iron overload can be managed by the standard
subcutaneous protocols, but the intensive
intravenous approach is attractive because
of the claim of improved compliance (19).
The syndromes attributable to intrahepatic
vaso-occlusion appear to be treated best with
exchange red cell transfusion because of the
remote risk of acute hyperviscosity (22).
Plasmapheresis and platelet transfusion support
are useful in cases associated with coagulopathy.
Johnson CS, Omata M, Tong MJ, et al. Liver
involvement in sickle cell disease. Medicine
(Baltimore) 1985;64:349-56.
West MS, Wethers D, Smith J, et al. Laboratory
profile of sickle cell disease: a cross-sectional
analysis. J Clin Epidemiol 1992;45:893-909.
Passon RG, Howard TA, Zimmerman SA, et al.
The effect of UDP-glucuronosyltransferase
(UGTIA) promoter polymorphisms on serum
bilirubin levels and cholelithiasis in patients with
sickle cell anemia. Blood 1999;94(Supp l):645a.
Walker TM, Hambleton IR, Serjeant GR.
Gallstones in sickle cell disease: Observations from
the Jamaican cohort study. J Pediatr 2000;136:80-5.
Nzeh DA, Adedoyin MA. Sonographic pattern of
gallbladder disease in children with sickle cell
anaemia. Pediatr Radiol 1989;19:290-2.
Haider MZ, Ashebu S, Aduh P, et al. Influence of
α-thalassemia on cholelithiasis in SS patients with
elevated Hb F. Acta Haematol 1998;100:147-50.
Lee SP, Maher K, Nicholls JF. Origin and fate of
biliary sludge. Gastroenterology 1988;94:170-6.
Al-Salem AH, Qaisruddin S. The significance of
biliary sludge in children with sickle cell disease.
Pediatr Surg Int 1998;13:14-6.
Walker TM, Serjeant GR. Biliary sludge in sickle
cell disease. J Pediatr 1996;129:443-5.
Serafini AN, Spoliansky G, Sfakianakis N, et al.
Diagnostic studies in patients with sickle cell anemia and acute abdominal pain. Arch Intern Med
Hasan MF, Marsh F, Posner G, et al. Chronic
hepatitis C in patients with sickle cell disease.
Am J Gastroenterol 1996;91:1204-6.
Emre S, Kitibayashi K, Schwartz M, et al. Liver
transplantation in a patient with acute liver failure
due to sickle cell intrahepatic cholestasis.
Transplantation 2000;69:675-6.
Mills LR, Mwakyusa D, Milner PF.
Histopathologic features of liver biopsy specimens
in sickle cell disease. Arch Pathol Lab Med
14. Omata M, Johnson CS, Tong MJ, et al. The
pathological spectrum of liver diseases in sickle cell
disease. Dig Dis Science 1986;31:247-56.
15. Chuang E, Ruchelli E, Mulberg AE. Autoimmune
liver disease and sickle cell anemia in children: A
report of three cases. Am J Pediatr Hematol Oncol
16. Brittenham GM, Cohen AR, McLaren CE, et al.
Hepatic iron stores and plasma ferritin concentration in patients with sickle cell anemia and thalassemia major. Am J Hematol 1993;42:81-5.
17. Harmatz P, Butensky E, Quirolo K, et al. Severity
of iron overload in patients with sickle cell disease
receiving chronic red blood cell transfusion therapy. Blood 2000;96:76-9.
18. Yeomans E, Lowe T, Eigenbrodt EH, et al. Liver
histopathologic findings in women with sickle cell
disease given prophylactic transfusion during pregnancy. Am J Obstet Gynecol 1990;163:958-64.
19. Silliman CC, Peterson VM, Mellman DL, et al.
Iron chelation by desferoxamine in sickle cell
patients with severe transfusion-induced hemosiderosis: a randomized double-blind study of
the dose-response relationship. J Lab Clin Med
20. Serjeant GR. Sickle Cell Disease, 3rd ed. Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2001.
21. Ojuawo A, Adeoyin MA, Fagbule D. Hepatic
function tests in children with sickle cell anaemia
during vaso occlusive crisis. Cent Afr J Med
22. Lee ESH, Chu PCM. Reverse sequestration
in a case of sickle cell crisis. Postgrad Med J
23. Buchanan GR, Glader BE. Benign course of
extreme hyperbilirubinemia in sickle cell anemia:
Analysis of six cases. J Pediatr 1977;91:21-4.
24. Shao SH, Orringer EP. Sickle cell intrahepatic
cholestasis: approach to a difficult problem.
Am J Gastroenterol 1995;90:2048-50.
25. Jawad AJ, Kurban K, El-Bakry A, et al.
Laparoscopic cholecystectomy for cholelithiasis
during infancy and childhood: cost analysis and
review of current indications. World J Surg
American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases
The American Gastroenterological Association
American Liver Foundation
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Hepatitis B Coalition
Hepatitis B Foundation
Hepatitis Foundation International
National Institutes of Health Consensus Statement
Acute exacerbation of anemia in the patient
with sickle cell disease (SCD) is a significant
cause of morbidity and mortality. The most
common process leading to this complication
is acute splenic sequestration.
Acute splenic sequestration complication
(ASSC) is caused by intrasplenic trapping of
red cells which causes a precipitous fall in
hemoglobin level and the potential for hypoxic shock. ASSC remains a leading cause of
death in children with SCD. ASSC may be
defined by a decrease of at least 2 g/dL from
the steady-state hemoglobin concentration,
evidence of increased erythropoiesis such as a
markedly elevated reticulocyte count, and an
acutely enlarging spleen. ASSC has been
reported as early as 5 weeks of age (1) and in
adults (2), but in most cases the first episodes
in SCD-SS patients occur between 3 months
and 5 years of age. The attacks are often associated with viral or bacterial infections. Acute
chest syndrome occurred in 20 percent in one
series (3). The usual clinical manifestations are
sudden weakness, pallor, tachycardia, tachypnea, and abdominal fullness. ASSC has been
reported in 30 percent of children with sickle
cell anemia in Jamaica (3) and 7.5 percent
of children seen at Duke University (4). In
Jamaica, the mortality rate for first attacks was
12 percent (5). Recurrent splenic sequestration
events are common, occurring in approximately 50 percent of those who survive the first
episode, and the mortality rate in these
patients may be 20 percent (5). There are no
clear prognostic factors for the occurrence of
ASSC, although the fetal hemoglobin (Hb F)
level at 6 months of age is somewhat lower
in children who develop this complication
(3). Although ASSC occurs most commonly
among children with SCD-SS, it has been
reported in 5 percent of children with SCDSC disease at a mean age of approximately 9
years (6) and in adults with SCD-SC disease
and SCD-S β+-thalassemia (7).
The immediate treatment of acute splenic
sequestration is directed toward correction of
hypovolemia with red blood cell transfusion.
Because severe ASSC can be fatal within a few
hours, emergent transfusion is required (see
chapter 25, Transfusion, Iron Overload, and
Chelation). Once transfusion is employed, red
cells sequestered in the spleen are remobilized,
splenomegaly regresses, and the hemoglobin
level increases, often to a level greater than
predicted on the basis of the volume of red
cells administered.
The rate of recurrent splenic sequestration is
high and greatly influences subsequent management, which may be divided into observation only, chronic transfusion, and splenectomy. Indications for these approaches are not
clearly defined. Questions which bear on management decisions include: Does splenectomy
Chapter 18: Splenic Sequestration
increase the risk of invasive infection above
that of the patient with functional asplenia?
Does a partial splenectomy allow maintenance
of some splenic function? Does chronic transfusion effectively restore splenic function?
Does chronic transfusion maintain the spleen’s
potential for sequestration by delaying autoinfarction?
Grover and Wethers (10), who advised a year
or more of long-term transfusion therapy for
the child with ASSC under age 3 and prompt
splenectomy after the first episode of ASSC
in the child 5 years of age or older.
Children who have ASSC are at risk for
recurrent, potentially fatal episodes and
should receive immediate medical attention.
Observation for adults is common because
episodes tend to be mild (8).
Topley et al. (5) reported that one third of
patients with ASSC develop hypersplenism.
They noted that chronic transfusion may
simply delay episodes of ASSC to a later age
and may not restore splenic function. In fact,
Rogers et al. (11) reported that pitted red cell
counts rose to asplenic levels after an episode
of ASSC and rarely, if ever, returned to values
compatible with normal splenic function.
Chronic Transfusion
Rao and Gooden (9) treated 11 children with
subacute splenic sequestration with short-term
transfusion for 1 to 3 years. Seven patients had
recurrent sequestration when transfusions were
discontinued near 5 years of age and subsequently underwent splenectomy. There were
no deaths. The authors concluded that the
time gained from short-term transfusion therapy was beneficial in reducing the risk of acute
sequestration and temporarily reversing splenic
dysfunction. In contrast, Kinney et al. (4)
compared short-term transfusion (n=12) with
observation (n=7) and immediate splenectomy
(n=4) in a group of 23 children with ASSC.
Despite a reduction in the concentration of
sickle hemoglobin (Hb S) to less than 30 percent in the chronically transfused patients,
the risk of recurrent sequestration appeared
unaffected by transfusion. Seven of 10 evaluable patients with chronic transfusion had
recurrences either during the transfusion period
or shortly after transfusion was discontinued;
4 of 7 patients who were observed had recurrences. Overall, splenectomy was performed in
61 percent of patients. The authors concluded
that short-term transfusion to prevent recurrent
splenic sequestration was of limited benefit.
An intermediate recommendation came from
Powell et al. (8) described 12 patients with
ASSC. One patient died; 3 patients with
minor episodes had no recurrences, and
8 patients had prompt splenectomy. The
researchers recommended splenectomy after
the first major episode of ASSC and reasoned
that removal of a poorly or nonfunctioning
spleen does not increase susceptibility to
infections. Although chronic blood transfusion
can delay splenectomy and temporarily restore
splenic function, these advantages were
thought to be outweighed by the risks of
chronic blood administration. In addition,
Topley et al. (5) suggested that any child
with a history of one classical episode of
ASSC or a minor episode followed by the
development of sustained hypersplenism
should undergo splenectomy.
An analysis of 130 Jamaican patients with
SCD-SS treated by splenectomy (46 for recurrent ASSC), and a control group matched for
sex, age, and duration of followup in a retrospective review by Wright et al. (12) found
that mortality and bacteremic episodes did not
differ between the splenectomy and control
groups. Painful events and acute chest syndrome were more common in the splenectomy
group. The authors concluded that splenectomy
does not increase the risk of death or bacteremic illness in patients with SCD-SS and,
if otherwise indicated, should not be deferred.
Partial splenectomy has been recommended
for children with recurrent ASSC as a means
of preventing further recurrence and retaining
splenic function (13,14). However, one
patient died of overwhelming sepsis when
this approach was used (15).
Alternatively, patients who have a severe
episode of ASSC and are below 2 years of
age should be placed in a chronic transfusion program to keep Hb S levels below
30 percent until a splenectomy can be
considered after 2 years of age.
Patients with chronic hypersplenism also
should be considered for splenectomy.
Emond et al. (3) describe a parental education
program in Jamaica to facilitate early diagnosis
of ASSC. The program, which involved more
than 300 children with SCD-SS, led to an
increase in the incidence of ASSC from 4.6
to 11.3/100 patient-years, probably reflecting
increased awareness of the complication.
However, the mortality rate fell from 29.4/100
events to 3.1/100 events, a dramatic decline
resulting from improved medical management
and earlier detection.
All reports regarding the management of
ASSC (and chronic hypersplenism) were
descriptive, retrospective, and uncontrolled.
Clinical evidence derived from controlled
clinical trials is relatively weak.
The following are current recommendations:
Early education should be provided to
parents of infants with SCD regarding palpation of the spleen, symptoms of progressive anemia, and appropriate action for
obtaining rapid evaluation and treatment.
Patients who have a life-threatening
episode of ASSC that requires transfusion
support should have a splenectomy shortly
after the event or be placed on a chronic
transfusion program.
Airede AI. Acute splenic sequestration in a fiveweek-old infant with sickle cell disease. J Pediatr
2. Solanki DL, Kletter GG, Castro O. Acute splenic
sequestration crises in adults with sickle cell
disease. Am J Med 1986;80:985-90.
3. Emond AM, Collis R, Darvill D, et al. Acute
splenic sequestration in homozygous sickle cell
disease: natural history and management. J Pediatr
4. Kinney TR, Ware RE, Schultz WH, et al.
Long-term management of splenic sequestration
in children with sickle cell disease. J Pediatr
5. Topley JM, Rogers DW, Stevens MCG, et al.
Acute splenic sequestration and hypersplenism
in the first five years in homozygous sickle cell
disease. Arch Dis Child 1981;56:765-9.
6. Aquino VM, Norvell JM, Buchanan GR. Acute
splenic complications in children with sickle cellhemoglobin C disease. J Pediatr 1997;130:961-5.
7. Orringer EP, Fowler VG Jr, Owens CM, et al.
Case report: splenic infarction and acute splenic
sequestration in adults with hemoglobin SC disease. Am J Med Sci 1991;302:374-9.
8. Powell RW, Levine GL, Yang Y-M, et al. Acute
splenic sequestration crisis in sickle cell disease:
early detection and treatment. J Pediatr Surg
9. Rao S, Gooden S. Splenic sequestration in sickle
cell disease: role of transfusion therapy. Am J
Pediatr Hematol Oncol 1985;7:298-301.
10. Grover R, Wethers DL. Management of acute
splenic sequestration crisis in sickle cell disease.
J Assoc Acad Minor Phys 1990;1:67-70.
11. Rogers DW, Serjeant BE, Serjeant GR. Early rise
in ‘pitted’ red cell count as a guide to susceptibility
to infection in childhood sickle cell anemia. Arch
Dis Child 1982;57:338-42.
Chapter 18: Splenic Sequestration
12. Wright JG, Hambleton IR, Thomas PW, et al.
Postsplenectomy course in homozygous sickle cell
disease. J Pediatr 1999;134:304-9.
13. Svarch E, Vilorio P, Nordet I, et al. Partial splenectomy in children with sickle cell disease and repeated episodes of splenic sequestration. Hemoglobin
14. Idowu O, Hayes-Jordan A. Partial splenectomy in
children under 4 years of age with hemoglobinopathy. J Pediatr Surg 1998;33:1251-3.
15. Svarch E, Nordet I, Gonzalez A. Overwhelming
septicaemia in a patient with sickle cell βo thalassaemia and partial splenectomy. Br J Haematol
(letter) 1999;104:930.
The kidney in patients with sickle cell disease
(SCD) exhibits numerous structural and functional abnormalities, changes that are seen
along the entire length of the nephron. The
medullary region of the kidney is composed
of renal tubules and medullary blood vessels
that are collectively referred to as the vasa recta
system. The environment of the renal medulla
is characterized by hypoxia, acidosis, and
hypertonicity. Because these conditions
promote hemoglobin S (Hb S) polymerization
and red cell sickling, this area of the kidney
is particularly susceptible to malfunction.
Microradioangiographic studies carried out
on the kidneys of patients with SCD show
significant loss of the vasa recta. Those few
medullary blood vessels that remain are
markedly dilated with a spiral configuration,
and appear to end blindly (1). Changes are
most marked in patients with homozygous
sickle cell anemia (SCD-SS), but are also seen
in those with compound heterozygous states
(SCD-SC, thalassemia) and the sickle cell
trait. Table 1 summarizes renal abnormalities
associated with SCD.
Hyposthenuria, an inability to concentrate
urine maximally, is perhaps the most common renal abnormality in SCD (2). In individuals with SCD-SS, hyposthenuria typically becomes apparent during early childhood
as enuresis, whereas in the other syndromes,
it may occur later in life. This dysfunction
in urinary concentrating ability is frequently
associated with nocturia.
As a result of the inability to maximally
concentrate the urine, patients with SCD
are more susceptible than are normal individuals to dehydration, a factor that often precipitates vaso-occlusive events. Patients with
SCD should therefore be encouraged to
drink liberal amounts of liquids in order to
compensate for the fluid loss that is brought
on by hyposthenuria.
Defective urinary acidification also is well
described in SCD (3). Typically, however,
patients have normal aldosterone and renin
responses (4). The primary abnormality is
an incomplete distal renal tubular acidosis
(RTA), and the severity of the acidification
defect is related, at least in part, to the
severity of the hyposthenuria.
Defects in potassium excretion also are seen
in SCD. Although not clinically apparent
under normal circumstances, hyperkalemia
does become manifest as overall renal function
deteriorates. In addition, even SCD patients
with normal renal function are at risk for
hyperkalemia following administration of
drugs such as ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers,
and potassium-sparing diuretics (2).
Chapter 19: Renal Abnormalities in Sickle Cell Disease
Table 1. Summary of Renal Abnormalities in SCD
Renal Abnormality
Abnormalities in distal nephron function
Impaired urinary acidification
Impaired potassium excretion
Not due to anemia
Incomplete distal tubular acidosis
Occurs despite normal renin/aldosterone
Supranormal proximal tubule function
Increased β-2-microglobulin reabsorption
Increased phosphate reabsorption
Increased uric acid secretion
Increased creatinine secretion
No pathological significance
Hemodynamic changes
Increased renal plasma flow
Increased glomerular filtration rate
Decreased filtration fraction
Mediated by prostaglandins
Occurs in left kidney in 80 percent of cases
Renal medullary carcinoma
Requires thorough workup of hematuria
Papillary necrosis
Infrequently produces renal failure
Acute renal failure
May be associated with rhabdomyolysis
Urinary tract infection
Especially in pregnant women
Glomerular abnormalities
Nephrotic syndrome
Chronic renal failure
With older age or CAR βs-haplotype
Increased creatinine secretion causes a lower
serum creatinine level and thus an overestimation of the glomerular filtration rate (GFR)
in SCD-SS patients. Differences of up to 30
percent have been reported when creatinine
clearance is compared to inulin clearance (5).
The significance of this enhanced proximal
tubular function in the pharmacokinetics of
drugs in which tubular secretion is a major
pathway of elimination is uncertain (2).
Despite increased secretion of uric acid,
patients with SCD often have hyperuricemia
and are vulnerable to secondary gout.
Hematuria, a common renal abnormality in
SCD, appears to result from the Hb S polymerization and red cell sickling in the renal
medulla. It may be a manifestation of papillary
necrosis. In most cases, bleeding originates
from the left kidney; a small minority of
patients have bilateral kidney involvement (6).
The treatment of hematuria in SCD involves
bed rest, maintenance of a high urinary flow
documented by monitoring of intake and
output, and, if blood loss is significant, iron
replacement and/or blood transfusion.
Vasopressin and epsilon-amino caproic acid
(EACA) have both been used with variable
success (7,8). However, caution must be exercised when using EACA as this antifibrinolytic
agent may predispose to the formation of
clots that can obstruct the urinary collecting
system. If prolonged and life-threatening
bleeding is coming from one kidney, local
resection of the bleeding segment is preferred.
Unilateral nephrectomy is a last resort since
bleeding may recur from the other kidney.
Hematuria that occurs in SCD is not always
a consequence of red cell sickling and papillary
necrosis. Other, nonsickling causes also should
be considered. For example, renal medullary
carcinoma in young subjects with SCD and
sickle cell trait (Hb AS) has been reported
(9,10). Therefore, a thorough evaluation is
recommended when hematuria is initially
found in individuals with SCD and Hb AS.
Acute renal failure occurs as a component
of the acute multiorgan failure syndrome
(AMOFS) in patients with SCD (11). This
syndrome is characterized by the sudden onset
of severe dysfunction of at least two major
organ systems (e.g., kidney, lung, liver) during
an acute painful vaso-occlusive episode in
patients with SCD. The pathophysiology
of AMOFS appears to be due to diffuse, small
vessel occlusion, which in turn results in tissue
ischemia and organ dysfunction. The renal
failure in this syndrome also may be related
to the accompanying rhabdomyolysis. Prompt
initiation of transfusion therapy or exchange
transfusion may reverse this syndrome.
Proteinuria, which can progress to the nephrotic syndrome, is the most common manifestation of glomerular injury in SCD patients.
Moreover, as many as 40 percent of SCD-SS
patients with nephrotic syndrome may go
on to develop end-stage renal disease (ESRD)
(12). Therefore, patients with persistent
proteinuria should have a urine collection
obtained for the determination of 24-hour
protein excretion, and a nephrology consultation should be requested for consideration of
other, nonsickling causes of proteinuria and
possible renal biopsy.
ACE inhibitors ameliorate pathological
changes such as perihilar focal and segmental
glomerulosclerosis. They also decrease urinary
protein excretion in patients with early manifestations of sickle cell nephropathy (13).
Renal insufficiency occurs earlier in SCD-SS
patients than it does in SCD-SC patients (12).
Factors that appear to predict renal failure
in SCD-SS patients include hypertension,
proteinuria, increasingly severe anemia, and
hematuria (13). Finally, the risk of renal
failure is increased in those SCD-SS patients
with the Central African Republic (CAR)
βs-gene cluster haplotype.
As there is no proven treatment for sickle cell
nephropathy, every attempt should be made
to slow its rate of progression. The amount of
proteinuria can be decreased by the administration of ACE inhibitors, and it is conceivable
that the progression of sickle cell nephropathy
may be slowed by a prolonged course of these
drugs. Patients should avoid nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) because NSAIDs
have been shown to produce significant
declines in the rates of glomerular filtration and
renal blood flow in patients with SCD (5,14).
Chapter 19: Renal Abnormalities in Sickle Cell Disease
Effective control of blood pressure has been
reported to slow the progression of ESRD
in patients with SCD; they should be treated
with standard approaches (15). Optimum
target blood pressure has not been defined.
Because dehydration can precipitate vasoocclusive events, caution should be exercised
in the use of diuretic agents in an individual
with obligate hyposthenuria.
Every effort must be made to avoid additional
renal damage due to urinary tract infection.
Infection must be recognized and treated
vigorously. Followup should be maintained
longer than for patients without SCD.
Although erythropoietin levels are generally
high in steady-state SCD-SS patients, they are
not increased to the level that would be expected for the degree of anemia (16). One explanation for the relatively decreased erythropoietin
levels is the right-shifted hemoglobin-oxygen
dissociation curve seen in SCD patients (17).
Erythropoietin levels in SCD patients fall still
further as renal function worsens, and these
patients may require substantially higher doses
of erythropoietin than are required for patients
with other forms of ESRD (18). If erythropoietin is ineffective, transfusions can be given;
they must be done carefully, however, to avoid
volume overload (see chapter 25, Transfusion,
Iron Overload, and Chelation).
As with all patients who develop ESRD, SCD
patients can be treated with both hemodiaylsis
and peritoneal dialysis, and they can undergo
renal transplantation. Although early reports
suggested poor allograft survival and other disease-specific problems in SCD patients, others
have reported graft and patient survival rates
comparable to those of other nondiabetic
patients (19). A more recent study of renal
transplantation in SCD reported short-term
patient and allograft outcomes comparable
to other age-matched African Americans.
However, there was a shorter cadaveric graft
survival and high risk of graft loss with longer
followup in the SCD patient group (20).
There was a trend toward improved survival
in those SCD patients who received transplants compared to those on chronic dialysis.
Although many SCD patients have done
well after renal transplantation, several unique
complications have been described. Patients
may experience a resumption of frequent
vaso-occlusive events which presumably are
related to an increase in whole blood viscosity
accompanying a higher hemoglobin level.
Renal infarction, a probable secondary consequence of Hb S polymerization, cell sickling,
and vaso-occlusion, has been reported to
occur as early as 6 days following transplantation (21). The reappearance of sickle cell
nephropathy in the donor kidney has also
been reported (22).
It is possible that the availability of new
immunosuppressive drugs may further
improve the outcome renal transplantation
in SCD patients. Hydroxyurea is excreted by
the kidney and thus its use in patients with
renal failure requires careful monitoring.
SCD patients receiving renal transplants may
benefit from exchange transfusion or even
from periodic phlebotomy, particularly when
hemoglobin levels are high.
Statius van Eps LW, Pinedo-Veels C, deVries CH,
et al. Nature of the concentrating defect in sickle
cell nephropathy. Microradioangiographic studies.
Lancet 1970;1:450-2.
Allon M. Renal abnormalities in sickle cell disease.
Arch Intern Med 1990;150:501-4.
Kontessis P, Mayopoulou-Symvoulidis D,
Symvoulidis A, et al. Renal involvement in sickle
cell-β thalassemia. Nephron 1992;61:10-5.
DeFronzo RA, Taufield PA, Black H, et al.
Impaired renal tubular potassium secretion in sickle cell disease. Ann Intern Med 1979;90:310-6.
Allon M, Lawson L, Eckman JR, et al. Effects
of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs on
renal function in sickle cell anemia. Kidney Int
Case records of the Massachusetts General
Hospital: Weekly Clinicopathological Exercises.
N Engl J Med 1985;312:1623-31.
John EG, Schade SG, Spigos DG, et al.
Effectiveness of triglycyl vasopressin in persistent
hematuria associated with sickle cell hemoglobin.
Arch Intern Med 1980;140:1589-93.
Immergut MA, Stevenson T. The use of epsilon
aminocaproic acid in the control of hematuria
associated with hemoglobinopathies. J Urol
Herring JC, Schmetz MA, Digan AB, et al. Renal
medullary carcinoma: a recently described highly
aggressive renal tumor in young black patients.
J Urol 1997;157:2246-7.
Coogan CL, McKiel CF Jr, Flanagan MJ, et al.
Renal medullary carcinoma in patients with SCT.
Urology 1998;51:1049-50.
Hassell KL, Eckman JR, Lane PA. Acute multiorgan failure syndrome: a potentially catastrophic
complication of severe sickle cell pain episodes.
Am J Med 1994;96:155-62.
Foucan L, Bourhis V, Bangou J, et al. A randomized trial of captopril for microalbuminuria in
normotensive adults with sickle cell anemia. Am
J Med 1998;104:339-42.
Powars DR, Elliott-Mills DD, Chan L, et al.
Chronic renal failure in sickle cell disease: risk
factors, clinical course, and mortality. Ann Intern
Med 1991;115:614-20.
14. De Jong PE, de Jong-van den Berg TW,
Sewrajsingh GS, et al. The influence of
indomethacin on renal hemodynamics in
sickle cell anemia. Clin Sci 1980;59:245-50.
15. Nissenson AR, Port FK. Outcome of end-stage
renal disease in patients with rare causes of renal
failure. I. Inherited and metabolic disorders. Quart
J Med 1989;271:1055.
16. Sherwood JB, Goldwasser E, Chilcote R, et al.
Sickle cell anemia patients have low erythropoietin
levels for their degree of anemia. Blood
17. Morris J, Dunn D, Beckford M, et al. The haematology of homozygous sickle cell disease after the
age 40. Br J Haematol 1991;77:382-5.
18. Steinberg MH. Erythropoietin for the anemia of
renal failure in sickle cell disease. N Engl J Med
19. Chatterjee SN. National study in natural
history of renal allografts in sickle cell disease
or trait: a second report. Transplant Proc
1987;19(2 Suppl 2):33-5.
20. Ojo AO, Govaerts TC, Schmouder RL, et al.
Renal transplantation in end-stage sickle cell
nephropathy. Transplantation 1999;67:291-5.
21. Donnelly PK, Edmunds ME, O’Reilly K. Renal
transplantation in sickle cell disease. Lancet (letter)
22. Miner DJ, Jorkasky DK, Perloff LJ, et al.
Recurrent sickle cell nephropathy in a transplanted
kidney. Am J Kidney Dis 1987;10:306-13.
The Sickle Cell Information Center: Problem Oriented
Clinical Guidelines
Sickle Cell Disease
Priapism, defined as a sustained, painful, and
unwanted erection, is a well recognized complication of sickle cell disease (SCD) (1-3).
According to one study, the mean age at
which priapism occurs is 12 years, and by the
age of 20, as many as 89 percent of males with
SCD will have experienced one or more
episodes of priapism (1). Priapism in males
with SCD is due to vaso-occlusion, which
causes obstruction of the venous drainage
of the penis. Priapism can be classified as
prolonged if it lasts for more than three hours
or stuttering if it lasts for more than a few
minutes but less than three hours and resolves
spontaneously; however, such stuttering
episodes may recur or develop into more prolonged events. Prolonged priapism is an emergency that requires urologic consultation.
Recurrent episodes of priapism can result in
fibrosis and impotence, even when adequate
treatment is attempted. Currently, there is no
single standard of care for the treatment of
priapism; the information provided below
represents current efforts with respect to the
treatment of this complication of SCD.
Beginning in early boyhood, males need to
know that priapism is one aspect of SCD and
that this is not an event that should embarrass
them. One study found that only 7 percent
of boys and men with SCD who had not
experienced priapism knew that it could be
a complication of SCD (1). This information
prompted the authors to prepare a brochure
explaining priapism, which was distributed
to all males and their families. Boys and young
men, as well as their families, need to know
that they should be prepared to seek medical
attention as soon as an episode begins and that
if untreated, priapism can result in impotence
in the future. The males should know that
a full bladder can trigger priapism, and they
therefore need to urinate regularly. They also
should avoid prolonged sexual activity, which
can trigger an episode. If they have had
more than one episode, medications can
be prescribed that may prevent recurrences.
When evaluating a patient with priapism, the
physician or nurse should document the time
of onset of the episode as well as the presence
of any other inciting factors, such as trauma,
infections, or the use of drugs (e.g., cocaine,
alcohol, psychotropic agents, sildenafil, testosterone) (4-6). A careful physical examination
should reveal a hard penis with a soft glans.
The goal of therapy is to ease pain, make the
erection go away, and preserve future erectile
function. If treatment is given within 4 to 6
hours, the erection can generally be reduced
with medication and conservative therapy.
Most of the articles in the literature concern
anecdotal reports and few randomized trials
are available.
Chapter 20: Priapism
Patients should be advised to drink extra
fluids, use oral analgesics, and attempt to
urinate as soon as priapism begins.
Patients should go to the emergency room to
receive intravenous hydration and parenteral
analgesia. According to one protocol (7), if
detumescence does not occur in 1 hour after
the patient has arrived in the emergency room,
penile aspiration is initiated (procedure should
be performed within 4 to 6 hours from onset
of priapism). The patient receives conscious
sedation and local anesthesia; blood is then
aspirated from the corpus cavernosum with
a 23-gauge needle followed by irrigation of
the corpora with a 1:1,000,000 solution of
epinephrine in saline. In a prospective nonrandomized unblinded study, this procedure was
successful in producing immediate detumescence in 15 males on 37 of 39 occasions (7).
This study was performed in males who were
teenagers or younger and has not been validated in an older population.
The concomitant use of automated red cell
exchange transfusions to reduce the sickle
hemoglobin (Hb S) level to less than 30 percent can also be considered, especially if early
intervention with irrigation fails (8). It is
unclear if simple transfusion is equivalent
to exchange transfusion.
The clinical response to exchange transfusions
is variable, and side-effects range from headaches
or seizures to obtundation requiring ventilatory
support. The association of SCD, priapism,
exchange transfusion, and neurological events
has been given the name ASPEN syndrome
(9). Recurrent priapism is strongly associated
with the development of impotence, therefore
some physicians transfuse patients as though
they were on a stroke protocol (maintenance
of Hb S level below 30 percent). These programs should be limited in duration (6 to 12
months), and patients should be assessed often.
If there is recurrence despite aspiration and
local instillation of vaso-active drugs, shunting
may be considered. In this procedure, known
as the Winter procedure, a shunt is created
between the glans penis and the distal corpora
cavernosa with a Tru-cut biopsy needle; this
allows blood from the distended corpora cavernosa to drain into the uninvolved corpus
spongiosa (10). A larger shunt can be created
if this is not successful.
Additional medications used for reversal of
priapism have included α-agonists and β-agonists such as terbutaline (11-13). Clinicians in
France and West Africa have used an α-agonist
(etilefrine) that can be injected by patients
into the cavernous sinus (12-13); however,
this agent is not available in the United States.
None of these agents has been validated in
a well-controlled trial and thus cannot be
endorsed at this time.
Complications of priapism and treatment
include bleeding from the holes placed in the
penis as part of the aspiration or shunting
procedures, infections, skin necrosis, damage
or strictures of the urethra, fistulas, and impotence. If impotence persists for 12 months,
the patient may wish to consider implantation
of a semirigid penile prosthesis (14).
There are no large clinical studies documenting ways to prevent priapism. Some physicians
prescribe 30 mg of oral pseudoephedrine
at night as an attempt to prevent further
episodes in those who have had priapism and
have required aspiration and irrigation (7).
Injections of leuprolide, a gonadotropinreleasing hormone analogue that suppresses
the hypothalamic-testicular axis and the production of testosterone, also has also been
used with some degree of success as prophylaxis against further episodes (15). A small
(11 patients) double-blind, placebo-controlled
crossover study found that oral stilbestrol
in doses of 5 mg daily for 3 to 4 days could
abort episodes of priapism and that much
smaller doses could prevent recurrence (16).
Although hydroxyurea may potentially be of
benefit (17), clinical studies to determine its
efficacy in preventing priapism have not been
Mantadakis E, Cavender JD, Rogers ZR, et al.
Prevalence of priapism in children and adolescents
with sickle cell anemia. Am J Pediatr Hematol
Oncol 1999;21:518-22.
Powars DR, Johnson CS. Priapism. Hematol
Oncol Clin North Am 1996;10:1363-72.
Miller ST, Rao SP, Dunn EK, et al. Priapism
in children with sickle cell disease. J Urol
Saenz-de-Tejada I, Ware JC, Blanco R, et al.
Pathophysiology of prolonged penile erection associated with trazodone use. J Urol 1991;145:60-4.
Kassim AA, Fabry ME, Nagel RL. Acute priapism
associated with the use of sildenafil in a patient
with sickle cell trait. Blood 2000;95:1878-9.
Slayton W, Kedar A, Schatz D. Testosterone
induced priapism in two adolescents with sickle
cell disease. J Pediatr Endocrinol Metab
Mantadakis E, Ewalt DH, Cavender JD, et al.
Outpatient penile aspiration and epinephrine irrigation for young patients with sickle cell anemia
and prolonged priapism. Blood 2000;95:78-82.
Walker EM Jr, Mitchum EN, Rous SN, et al.
Automated erythrocytopheresis for relief of priapism in sickle cell hemoglobinopathies. J Urol
Rackoff WR, Ohene-Frempong K, Month S,
et al. Neurologic events after partial exchange
transfusion for priapism in sickle cell disease.
J Pediatr 1992;120:882-5.
Winter CC. Priapism cured by creation of fistulas
between glans penis and corpora cavernosa. J Urol
Lowe FC, Jarow JP. Placebo controlled study of
oral terbutaline and pseudoephedrine in management of prostaglandin E1-induced prolonged
erections. Urology 1993;42:51-3.
Virag R, Bachir D, Floresco J, et al. Ambulatory
treatment and prevention of priapism using alphaagonists. Apropos of 172 cases. Chirurgie
Jarmon JD, Ginsberg PC, Nachmann MM, et al.
Stuttering priapism in a liver transplant patient
with toxic levels of FK506. Urology 1999;54:366.
Douglas L, Fletcher H, Serjeant GR. Penile prostheses in the management of impotence in sickle
cell disease. Br J Urol 1990;65:533-5.
Levine LA, Guss SP. Gonadotropin-releasing hormone analogues in the treatment of sickle-cell anemia associated priapism. J Urol 1993;150:475-7.
Serjeant GR, DeCeulaer K, Maude GH. Stilbestrol
and stuttering priapism in homozygous sickle-cell
disease. Lancet 1985;2:1274-6.
Al Jam’a AH, Al Dobbous IA. Hydroxyurea in the
treatment of sickle cell associated priapism. J Urol
Steidle C. Priapism. In: The Impotence Sourcebook.
New York: RGA Publishing Group, 1998.
Musculoskeletal manifestations of sickle cell
disease (SCD) are common and may lead to
severe morbidity. Bone and joint involvement
result from three main causes: 1) bone marrow
hyperplasia, which causes distortion and
growth disturbance, particularly in the skull,
vertebrae, and long bones; 2) vaso-occlusive
events that lead to infarction of metaphyseal
and diaphyseal bone and to osteonecrosis of
juxta-articular bone; and 3) hematogenous
bacterial infection that results in osteomyelitis
and septic arthritis.
The chronic hemolytic anemia of SCD results
in erythroid hyperplasia. Cellular proliferation
in the marrow spaces results in bone deformities, most notably in the skull where trabeculae may be oriented in a radial pattern (“hair
on-end”), and an increase in the distance
between the inner and outer tables of the
frontal bone, which results in “bossing”
of the forehead. Growth disturbance in
the maxilla may result in protrusion of the
incisors and an accentuated over-bite. In
the long bones, osteopenia may predispose
to pathologic fractures (1,2). Similar changes
occur in the vertebral bodies, and resulting
compression fractures may lead to flattening
and to kyphotic deformity of the spine (3).
Acetabular protrusion has been noted in one
or both hips of some patients with SCD and
is attributed to osteopenia associated with
marrow hyperplasia (4,5).
Bones and joints are major sites of pain in
vaso-occlusive events. It is hypothesized that
relative hypoxia in the sinusoids of the marrow
spaces predisposes to sickling and to thrombosis. Sudden infarction causes acute symptoms
and signs that must be differentiated from
those of bacterial infection. Infarction may
occur in any bone, but common sites include
the spine, pelvis, and long bones. Vertebral
infarction may cause collapse of the end plates,
resulting in the so-called “codfish” vertebra.
The most common sites of involvement in the
long bones are the humerus, tibia, and femur
(in that order) (6). The distal segment is most
often involved.
Local tenderness, warmth and swelling
are common, as is impaired motion in
the adjacent joints. In contrast to cases of
osteomyelitis, fever is usually absent or lowgrade, and the white blood cell differential
rarely demonstrates a left shift. Aspiration
of the affected site yields negative cultures.
Radiographs are unremarkable in the acute
stage. Once healing and remodeling occur,
radiographs demonstrate patchy sclerosis
and local thickening of the cortices (1). In
metaphyseal and diaphyseal infarcts of the
long bones, long term sequelae are minimal.
Because it may be difficult to differentiate
between acute infarction and acute
Chapter 21: Bones and Joints
osteomyelitis (7), close followup examinations,
blood cultures, aspiration of the affected site,
and repeated white blood cell counts are appropriate until a diagnosis is firmly established.
Dactylitis, or the “hand-foot” syndrome, is a
limited phenomenon that occurs in the hands
and feet of infants and young children. One to
four extremities may be involved at the same
time. The syndrome presents with pain in the
metacarpals, metatarsals, and phalanges of the
hands and feet. Swelling typically occurs over
the dorsum of the hands and feet, extending
into the fingers and toes. Radiographs eventually reveal periosteal elevation and a moth-eaten
appearance of involved bone (3). Symptoms
usually resolve in 1 to 4 weeks, and the condition results in no long-term sequelae (8). The
patient should receive analgesia and hydration,
and the parents should be given reassurance.
Transfusions, antibiotics and other measures
are usually not necessary. Although it is rare,
infection should be considered if conservative
management yields no benefit. At least one
study has indicated that an episode of dactylitis within the first two years of life, particularly in association with leukocytosis and severe
anemia, may predict severe manifestations of
SCD later in life (9).
Ischemic necrosis of juxta-articular bone arises
from thrombosis of the endarterial vessels and
often leads to painful destruction of the adjacent joint. The femoral and humeral heads
are most often involved. Osteonecrosis of the
femoral head may occur in any of the genetic
variants of SCD, but is most prevalent in
patients with SCD-SS α-thalassemia (10).
The mean age at diagnosis varies according
to genotype; patients with SCD-SS α-thalassemia present at 28 years of age, those with
SCD-SS present at age 36, and those with
SCD-SC present at age 40. The natural history of symtomatic hip disease in SCD patients
who are treated conservatively varies with the
patient’s age. In skeletally immature patients
who are 12 years of age or younger, treatment
with analgesics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory
drugs, and protected weight-bearing usually
results in healing and remodeling of the
involved capital epiphysis, similar to what is
observed in Legg-Calve-Perthes disease (1,11).
This approach results in preservation of the
joint despite the persistence of deformity such
as coxa magna and coxa plana (1,12).
In contrast, conservative management of
osteonecrosis usually fails in patients in late
adolescence and in adulthood. Progressive flattening and collapse of the femoral head results
in painful secondary degenerative arthritis.
The use of joint-preserving surgical procedures
such as core decompression and osteotomy
has been reported anecdotally in sickle cell
patients who have precollapse femoral head
involvement (13). As yet, there have been
no prospective, randomized studies in sickle
cell patients to critically assess the safety and
efficacy of such procedures.
Hip arthroplasty is reserved for patients with
advanced disease who are severely symptomatic. Earlier studies have reported high rates
of early and late deep sepsis, mechanical loosening of implants, and high reoperation rates
(14-18). In these studies, there was a high rate
of postoperative events, averaging 10 percent.
In more recent reports, patients have been
treated with newer surgical techniques, including the use of cementless prostheses, and perioperative medical management has received
greater emphasis (19-21). These studies report
lower rates of infection, fewer risky reoperations,
and fewer salvage resection arthroplasties.
Despite these encouraging recent reports,
most orthopedists continue to reserve prosthetic arthroplasty for those patients in whom
all other measures have failed to yield relief.
Osteonecrosis of the humeral head occurs
commonly in SCD, especially in patients with
femoral head involvement (22). The prevalence
of humeral head osteonecrosis on radiographs
was 28 percent in one population of patients
(23); in another study, 48 percent of adults
with SCD-SS were found to have radiographic
abnormalities suggestive of healed and remodeled osteonecrotic lesions (24). Treatment of
symptomatic humeral head osteonecrosis is
similar to that described for femoral head
osteonecrosis, but because the forces on the
shoulder joint are smaller, morbidity is less
pronounced (25).
Blood-borne bacteria may proliferate in the
sinusoids of the marrow spaces where flow
is sluggish. Previously infarcted bone may
provide a protected environment for bacterial
infection, and the likelihood of osteomyelitis
may be increased further by a diminished
immune response in SCD. The prevalence
of osteomyelitis may be rare or as high as
61 percent in sickle cell populations (26,27).
The predisposition of sickle cell patients to
salmonella osteomyelitis is well known.
As noted earlier, acute osteomyelitis must
be differentiated from acute bone infarction.
Although acute bone “crisis” is much more
common, a high index of suspicion for
osteomyelitis is warranted. Local tenderness,
warmth, and swelling are present in both.
Fever is generally high in acute infection.
The white blood cell count is often elevated
in patients with SCD and further elevations
may be seen with infarcts and infection. A
left shift in the differential is usually present
in infection, but not in infarction. Positive
blood cultures frequently accompany acute
osteomyelitis, and a positive culture from local
bone aspiration is diagnostic. Radiographs
rarely reveal bone changes early on, and the
only abnormality may be evidence of soft tissue swelling. Radionuclide bone scans usually
do not differentiate infection from infarction
in the acute phase (6), but marrow scans may
be helpful (28).
Surgical drainage is the primary treatment
once the diagnosis is made. Intravenous therapy with antibiotics, chosen according to the
sensitivity of the organism, is carried out for
2 to 6 weeks, depending upon the nature and
extent of the infection. Protected weightbearing and bracing are sometimes required
when there is significant bone destruction.
Chronic undiagnosed infections may involve
bone extensively, resulting in the formation of
a so-called “bone within a bone” radiographic
appearance, reflecting the presence of a shell of
periosteal new bone (involucrum) surrounding
a core of dead bone (sequestrum).
Septic arthritis, like osteomyelitis, may
result from hematogenous spread of bacteria
or, alternatively, from direct spread from
a contiguous focus of osteomyelitis. Severe
pain, tenderness, joint swelling, local warmth,
and marked limitation of motion are characteristic findings.
Septic arthritis must be differentiated from
other types of arthropathy including synovial
infarction, synovitis associated with adjacent
osteonecrosis, and nonspecific synovitis, which
is usually self-limited and rarely progresses to
chondrolysis (29). The use of radiography and
Chapter 21: Bones and Joints
magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in
diagnosis of symptomatic joints is confined
to identifying other causes of arthropathy
once infection is ruled out by aspiration.
Surgical drainage remains the surest means
of completely evacuating exudates and breaking up loculations that may predispose to
persistent infection and articular cartilage
destruction. Intravenous antibiotics are
administered, and short-term joint immobilization is carried out, followed by range-ofmotion exercises. Re-aspiration of the joint
confirms adequate suppression of the infection.
Plain radiography is useful in defining established changes of infection, infarction, and
osteomyelitis. However, it is of little or no
use in diagnosing acute infection or infarction.
Radiography depicts the bone abnormalities
associated with marrow hyperplasia and those
later adaptive changes that result both from
remodeling and from growth disturbances.
Radionuclide bone imaging is nonspecific
and therefore of limited value in differentiating
infection from infarction. However, radionuclide marrow imaging has been shown to
be useful because it has a high likelihood
of depicting diminished uptake in infarction
and normal uptake in infection (28).
Ultrasound and MRI have been shown to
be useful in the diagnosis of acute conditions.
Ultrasound can be used in depicting soft
tissue conditions such as abscess, particularly
when MRI is not available (30). MRI has
been shown to depict the early changes of
osteonecrosis (31) and acute bone and joint
abnormalities in children (32).
Chung SM, Alavi A, Russell MO. Management of
osteonecrosis in sickle cell anemia and its genetic
variants. Clin Orthop 1978;130:158-74.
Johanson NA. Musculoskeletal problems in
hemoglobinopathy. Orthop Clin North Am
Diggs LW. Bone and joint lesions in sickle cell
disease. Clin Orthop 1967;52:119-43.
Martinez S, Apple JS, Baber C, et al. Protrusio
acetabuli in sickle-cell anemia. Radiology
Rijke A, Pope TL Jr, Keats TE. Bilateral protrusio
acetabuli in sickle cell anemia. South Med J
Keeley K, Buchanan GR. Acute infarction
of long bones in children with sickle cell anemia.
J Pediatr 1982;101:170-5.
Kooy A, de Heide LJ, ten Tije AJ, et al. Vertebral
bone destruction in sickle cell disease: infection,
infarction or both. Neth J Med 1996;48:227-31.
Worrall VT, Butera V. Sickle-cell dactylitis.
J Bone Joint Surg Am 1976;58:1161-3.
Miller ST, Sleeper LA, Pegelow CH, et al.
Prediction of adverse outcomes in children with
sickle cell disease. N Engl J Med 2000;342:83-9.
Milner PF, Kraus AP, Sebes JI, et al. Sickle cell
disease as a cause of osteonecrosis of the femoral
head. N Engl J Med 1991;325:1476-81.
Washington ER, Root L. Conservative treatment
of sickle cell avascular necrosis of the femoral head.
J Pediatr Orthop 1985;5:192-4.
Hernigou P, Galacteros F, Bachir D, et al.
Deformities of the hip in adults who have sickle
cell disease and had avascular necrosis in childhood.
J Bone Joint Surg Am 1991;73:81-92.
Styles LA, Vichinsky EP. Core decompression
in avascular necrosis of the hip in sickle-cell
disease. Am J Hemat 1996;52:103-7.
Acurio MT, Friedman RJ. Hip arthroplasty
in sickle-cell haemoglobinopathy. J Bone Joint
Surg Br 1992;74:367-71.
Bishop AR, Roberson JR, Eckman JR, et al.
Total hip arthroplasty in patients who have sickle
cell hemoglobinopathy. J Bone Joint Surg Am
Clarke HJ, Jinnah RH, Brooker AF, et al. Total
replacement of the hip for avascular necrosis
in sickle cell disease. J Bone Joint Surg Br 1989;
17. Gunderson C, D’Ambrosia RD, Shaoji H. Total
hip replacement in patients with sickle cell disease.
J Bone Joint Surg Am 1977;59:760-1.
18. Hanker GJ, Nuys V, Amstutz HC. Osteonecrosis
of the hip in sickle cell disease. J Bone Joint Surg Am
19. Hickman JM, Lachiewicz PF. Results and
complications of total hip arthroplasties in patients
with sickle-cell hemoglobinopathies. J Arthroplasty
20. Moran MC, Huo MH, Garvin KL, et al. Total hip
arthroplasty in sickle cell hemoglobinopathy. Clin
Orthop 1993;294:140-8.
21. Sanjay BKS, Moreau PG. Bipolar hip replacement
in sickle cell disease. Int Orthop 1996;20:222-6.
22. Wingate J, Schiff CF, Friedman RJ. Osteonecrosis
of the humeral head in sickle cell disease. J South
Orthop Assoc 1996;5:101-7.
23. David HG, Bridgman SA, Davies SC, et al. The
shoulder in sickle-cell disease. J Bone Joint Surg Br
24. Hernigou P, Allain J, Bachir D, et al. Abnormalities
of the adult shoulder due to sickle cell osteonecrosis
during childhood. Rev Rhum Engl 1996;65:27-32.
25. Chung SM, Ralston EL. Necrosis of the humeral
head associated with sickle cell anemia and its
genetic variants. Clin Orthop 1971;80:105-17.
26. Bennett OM, Namnyak SS. Bone and joint manifestations of sickle cell anaemia. J Bone Joint Surg
Br 1990;72:494-9.
27. Mallouh A, Talab Y. Bone and joint infection in
patients with sickle cell disease. J Pediatr Orthop
28. Rao S, Solomon N, Miller S, et al. Scintigraphic
differentiation of bone infarction from
osteomyelitis in children with sickle cell
disease. J Pediatr 1985;107:685-8.
29. Schumacher HR, Dorwart BB, Bond J, et al.
Chronic synovitis with early cartilage destruction in
sickle cell disease. Ann Rheum Dis 1977;36:413-9.
30. Sidhu P, Rich PM. Sonographic detection and
characterization of musculoskeletal and subcutaneous tissue abnormalities in sickle cell disease.
Br J Radiol 1999;72:9-17.
31. Rao VM, Mitchell DG, Steiner RM, et al. Femoral
head avascular necrosis in sickle cell anemia MR
characteristics. Magn Reson Imaging 1988;6:661-7.
32. Rao VM, Sebes JI, Steiner RM, et al. Noninvasive
diagnostic imaging in hemoglobinopathies.
Hematol Oncol Clin North Am 1991;5:517-33.
Between 10 and 20 percent of patients with
sickle cell disease (SCD) due to a homozygous
hemoglobin S (Hb S) genotype (SCD-SS)
develop painful, disfiguring, and indolent leg
ulcers. The ulcers usually appear between ages
10 and 50 years and are seen more frequently
in males than in females. Leg ulcers are rare
in individuals with SCD-SC, SCD-S β+-thalassemia, and patients under 10 years of age,
but occur in other hemolytic anemias, such
as thalassemia major. In the United States,
SCD is the main hemoglobinopathy that
causes leg ulcers.
The etiology of leg ulcers is unclear. In sickle
cell anemia, poorly deformable red cells may
cause hypoxia and infarction of distal ankle
skin, which can be ameliorated by increased
fetal hemoglobin (1). Trauma, infection, severe
anemia, and warmer temperatures also may
predispose to ulcer formation. Decreased
blood flow after the ulcer has healed often
results in recurrence.
Sickle cell ulcers usually begin as small, elevated, crusting sores on the lower third of the
leg, over the medial or lateral malleolus of the
ankle. Occasionally, ulcers are seen over the
tibia or the dorsum of the foot. They can be
single or multiple. Some heal rapidly, others
persist for years, and others heal only to recur
in the area of scarred tissue. In the early phase,
the neighboring skin appears to be healthy, but
as the ulcer persists, the surrounding skin shows
hyperpigmentation with loss of subcutaneous
fat and hair follicles. These ulcers can be very
painful and often are accompanied by reactive
cellulitis and regional (inguinal) adenitis.
A general physical examination should search
for other causes of leg ulcers such as varicose
veins, diabetes mellitus, and collagen vascular
disease. Before therapy, a radiograph of the
leg is performed to rule out osteomyelitis,
which is rare, even though periosteal thickening is common.
The number of well controlled trials for treatment of leg ulcers is small, the number of
patients in most of them is too low, and there
have been almost no confirmatory studies.
Methods considered to be effective in more
common conditions (burns, venous stasis, and
diabetic ulcers) have been used, but evidence
of efficacy is often absent. In most cases, the
patient’s history has been used as his control
in a condition notorious for unexplained
remissions and relapses. Thus, most evidence
is relatively weak.
There have been many proposed treatments,
including topical honey or topical granulocyte
macrophage-colony stimulating factor (GMCSF), zinc oxide impregnated dressings (Unna
boots), various types of natural dressings (such
as lyophilized pig skin), synthetic matrices (2)
Chapter 22: Leg Ulcers
that foster healing, full-thickness skin flaps
attached with microsurgical techniques,
parenteral erythropoietin, and intravenous
antithrombin III concentrate. Localized infection is an invariant feature (3), and proposed
approaches range from acetic acid wet-to-dry
dressings to gentle surgical debridement to
systemic antibiotics. Anemia is, of course,
a problem; most therapeutic regimens involve
transfusion to raise the patient’s hemoglobin
concentration, and some more aggressive
programs attempt to dilute sickle cells below
some arbitrary limit, as in treatment and
prevention of stroke.
care; 13 cases in the zinc group improved,
compared to 8 in the placebo group. No statistical analysis of the difference was reported.
Later, topical antibiotic spray was compared
to sodium chloride solution in 28 patients (6);
6 of the control patients were taking oral zinc
sulfate. For ulcers of the same initial size,
those treated with the topical antibiotic were
66 percent smaller (p<0.05) after 8 weeks.
A later trial compared Solcoseryl, Duoderm,
and conventional therapy (7); patients did not
tolerate Duoderm, and results with Solcoseryl
were not significantly different from conventional therapy.
There are no published trials of various types
of conventional therapy, no reports that assess
the efficacy of transfusion, and no reports
that compare skin grafting with conventional
therapy aside from comparisons of pretreatment and posttreatment courses in individual
patients. Particularly when evaluating surgical
regimens, it is important to remember that
ulcers heal with bed rest alone, and that relatively prolonged bed rest is often part of postgrafting regimens.
Perhaps the most useful but frustrating controlled trial of treatment for ankle ulcers was
that of Wethers and coworkers (2). Fifty-five
patients with chronic nonhealing ulcers were
randomized to treatment with or without a
gel composed of an arginine-glycine-aspartate
(RGD) peptide (a binding site for integrins
on cell surfaces) and sodium hyaluronate for
cell attachment. Healing was accelerated in
patients treated with the RGD peptide matrix
(p=0.0085), and the gel was as effective in
ulcers of long duration as it was in those of
shorter duration. Although the study appears
to have been well designed, the manufacturer
of the RGD matrix for clinical use is defunct,
and the compound is no longer available.
Any treatment for a chronic condition that
causes many patients to be economically
disadvantaged must be practical and costeffective. Complete bed rest for weeks may
be effective, but it is not practical; moderately
expensive dressings used for an outpatient
might be cost-effective, but inpatient therapy
probably is not (4). Issues of cost and practicality are not considered in the following
review of several controlled trials, but they
underlie any choice of treatment.
Most of the controlled trials were carried out
by Serjeant and coworkers in Jamaica (5),
where the frequency of ankle ulcers is very
high and their etiology is complex. In the first
trial, 29 patients received either zinc sulfate or
placebo for 6 months in addition to wound
Studies to prove the efficacy of treatment of
leg ulcers are difficult to perform. One reason
is that healing depends on blood circulation,
and the cumulative time of bed rest and leg
elevation is not easily monitored. In addition,
the variable extent of wound debridement is
difficult to quantify, and a short period of
dependency could erase any gains made in
the previous period. Thus, no treatments
have been proven to work well or consistently.
Stated differently, the “strength of evidence”
that any available treatment except bed rest
and wound cleansing is really effective is not
good, a conclusion similar to that of a recently
published comprehensive review (3).
Since the one apparently effective compound
is unavailable, practice is empirical, rather than
based on firm evidence. Outpatient treatment
is cheaper than hospitalization and can be
achieved with intermittent clinic visits for
supervision. Some patients will be unable to
follow medical advice if they cannot stay off
their feet because of employment or domestic
duties, afford to buy dressings, or follow
instructions on how to change dressings.
In such cases, considerable ingenuity on the
part of the physician or nurse may be needed.
The caregiver can provide encouragement
and understanding, which can help the patient
accept the long duration of treatment.
Ankle ulcers are painful, and the patient
should be given moderately potent analgesics
such as oxycodone. Bed rest and elevation of
the leg to reduce edema are useful, though not
always practical. Wet-to-dry dressings, even
if applied only 2 or 3 times a day, can provide
gentle debridement; cooperation of patients
increases when they are permitted to dampen
the dressing slightly before removal, since it
is a painful process. Oral zinc sulfate (200 mg
3 times a day) probably does no harm if it does
not cause nausea, and may be worth using.
Ankle ulcers are always colonized with pathogenic bacteria, usually Pseudomonas aeruginosa,
Staphylococcus aureus, and/or Streptococcus
species (8), and sometimes the ulcers are
acutely infected. The infection also can be
systemic. In the colonized patient, topical
antiseptics (dressings soaked with dilute acetic
acid, silver sulfadiazine cream, etc.) may be
helpful, but topical antibiotics invite growth
of treatment-resistant strains and should be
avoided. In acutely infected patients, vigorous
systemic antibiotic therapy is indicated.
Periosteal thickening is usually present beneath
the ulcer, but osteomyelitis is unusual.
After pain and swelling have subsided, the use
of Unna boots can be helpful. Patients can be
taught to change the dressing themselves, and
must be instructed to remove it promptly if
swelling recurs. Patients need to know before
a boot is first applied that a shoe may no
longer fit when the boot is in place, and a
loose sneaker or sandal may fit more easily.
If there is much exudate, the boot may need
to be changed 2 or 3 times a week; as ulcers
improve, weekly changes are sufficient. The
ulcer size should be measured at every clinic
visit; seeing the dimensions shrink can provide
encouragement to the patient.
Some ulcers will not heal. Rigorous studies
have not been done to assess the utility of
transfusions for treating leg ulcers (see chapter
25, Transfusion, Iron Overload, and Chelation),
but the ulcers seem to correlate with degree
of anemia, which suggests transfusions may
help. They should be considered for recalcitrant or recurrent skin ulcers if conservative
therapy fails. If transfusions are used, they
probably should be continued for 3 to 6
months. There is no evidence that a specified
posttransfusion hemoglobin concentration
or percentage of sickle cells is better than
another, but a hemoglobin concentration
above 10 g/dL with Hb S levels less than
50 percent can be achieved.
More complete bed rest, systemic antibiotics,
transfusions, and skin grafts sometimes help.
If split thickness or pinch grafts are to be used,
preoperative preparation of the ulcer bed is
probably quite important. Quantitative bacterial cultures of biopsies of the bed and margin
Chapter 22: Leg Ulcers
are advocated by some (9) but not all (10)
surgeons as a guide to the time for surgery.
Microsurgical attachment of myocutaneous
flaps may sometimes succeed when all else
fails (11), but this rather heroic procedure
is not always successful (12).
Because leg ulcers are less common in patients
with high fetal hemoglobin (Hb F) levels, it
would seem logical to try to raise Hb F concentrations. Intravenous arginine butyrate
infusions have been reported to cause rapid
healing of ankle ulcers (13). Hydroxyurea is
not a good choice because it appears to cause
leg ulcers in patients with myeloproliferative
disease (14).
Koshy M, Entsuah R, Koranda A, et al. Leg ulcers
in patients with sickle cell disease. Blood
Wethers DL, Ramirez GM, Koshy M, et al.
Accelerated healing of chronic sickle-cell leg
ulcers treated with RGD peptide matrix.
Blood 1994;84:1775-9.
Eckman JR. Leg ulcers in sickle cell disease.
Hem/Onc Clin N Amer 1996;10:1333-44.
Cackovic M, Chung C, Bolton LL, et al. Leg
ulceration in the sickle cell patient. J Am Coll
Surg 1998;187:307-9.
Serjeant GR, Galloway RE, Gueri MC. Oral zinc
sulphate in sickle cell ulcers. Lancet 1970;2:891-2.
Baum KF, MacFarlane DE, Maude GH, et al.
Topical antibiotics in chronic sickle cell leg ulcers.
Trans Roy Soc Trop Med Hyg 1987;81:847-9.
La Grenade L, Thomas PW, Serjeant GR.
A randomized trial of solcoseryl and duoderm
in chronic sickle-cell ulcers. West Indian Med J
MacFarlane DE, Baum KF, Serjeant GR.
Bacteriology of sickle cell leg ulcers. Trans
Roy Soc Trop Med Hyg 1986;80:553-6.
Majewski W, Cybulski Z, Napierala M, et al. The
value of quantitative bacteriological investigations
in the monitoring of treatment of ischaemic ulcerations of lower legs. Int Angiol 1995;14:381-4.
Steer JA, Papini RPG, Wilson APR, et al.
Quantitative microbiology in the management of
burn patients II. Relationship between bacterial
counts obtained by burn wound biopsy culture and
surface alginate swab culture, with clinical outcome
following burn surgery and change of dressings.
Burns 1996;22:177-81.
Heckler FR, Dibbell DG, McCraw JB. Successful
use of muscle flaps or myocutaneous flaps in
patients with sickle cell disease. Plast Reconst Surg
Richards RS, Bowen CVA, Glynn MFX.
Microsurgical free flap transfer in sickle cell
disease. Ann Plastic Surg 1992;29:278-81.
Sher GD, Olivieri NF. Rapid healing of chronic leg
ulcers during arginine butyrate therapy in patients
with sickle cell disease and thalassemia. Blood
Best PJ, Daoud MS, Pittelkow MR, et al.
Hydroxyurea-induced leg ulceration in 14
patients. Ann Intern Med 1998;128:29-32.
In a large multicenter observational study
(1), the most common complication during
pregnancy for women with sickle cell disease
(SCD) was hypertension (table 1). A high percentage of the pregnancies resulted in preterm
deliveries and infants that were small for gestational age. Pain episodes were not increased
during pregnancy, and of the pregnancies carried to 28 weeks gestation, 99 percent resulted
in live deliveries. This study demonstrated that
pregnancy is not contraindicated for women
with SCD. However, prenatal care for women
with SCD should be managed by a multidisciplinary team that includes an obstetrician,
nutritionist, primary care physician, and
hematologist. The team must decide who will
be responsible for each aspect of the patient’s
care. Close monitoring, combined with
prompt diagnosis and aggressive treatment
of complications during the prenatal and
neonatal period by a multidisciplinary team,
will contribute to better outcomes.
Oral contraceptives, contraceptive agents
administered intramuscularly, and barrier
methods are all acceptable choices for women
with SCD. Few studies have evaluated oral
contraceptives in this population; however,
there is no evidence of adverse effects (2).
Intrauterine devices are not optimal, since they
may be associated with uterine bleeding and
infection, regardless of the presence of SCD.
Women and men who are taking hydroxyurea
should use contraceptive methods and discontinue the drug if they plan to conceive a child,
since hydroxyurea has been shown to be teratogenic in animal models. If conception accidentally occurs when either partner is taking
hydroxurea, the couple should be told that
there is a paucity of information on which
to determine the effect of hydroxyurea on the
fetus. However, in the 14 or 15 cases in which
hydroxyurea was taken throughout pregnancy,
no fetal malformations occurred (3,4).
The prenatal assessment visit serves to provide
counseling and outline continued care for the
duration of the pregnancy. The primary focus
is to identify maternal risks for low birth
weight, preterm delivery, and genetic risks for
fetal abnormalities. At this time, the physician
reviews and discusses the behavior and social
patterns that place the patient at risk for sexually transmitted diseases, illicit drug use, alcohol and tobacco use, and physical abuse.
A history of previous cesarean section and
uterine curettage should be obtained at prenatal evaluation because of the correlation of the
occurrence of placenta previa in patients with
Chapter 23: Contraception and Pregnancy
Table 1. Complications of Pregnancy in Women With Sickle Cell Disease
Incidence (%)
Incidence (%)
Placenta previa
Small for gestational age
(<10th percentile)
Rupture of membranes
(<37 weeks at birth)
Premature labor
Acute anemic event
(decrease in hemoglobin
levels by 30 percent of
Maternal mortality
Data are based on a study of 445 pregnancies in 297 women (predominantly in women with SCD-SS) recorded
between 1979 and 1986 at 19 centers participating in the Cooperative Study of Sickle Cell Disease (1).
previous uterine surgery. Adequate nutritional
assessment and the avoidance of precipitating
factors that cause painful events should be outlined with this initial visit as well as all subsequent visits. The patient’s prepregnant weight,
height, and optimal weight gain in pregnancy
will be recorded. Physical exam should also
include determination of splenic size.
Initial comprehensive laboratory studies
include complete blood count with a reticulocyte index, hemoglobin electrophoresis, serum
iron, total iron binding capacity (TIBC),
ferritin levels, liver function tests, urine examination and culture, electrolytes, blood urea
nitrogen (BUN), creatinine, blood type and
group, red cell antibody screen, and measurement of antibodies to hepatitis A, B, and C,
as well as to HIV. Rubella antibody titre,
tuberculin skin test, Pap smear, cervical
smear, and gonococcus culture and screening
for other sexually transmitted diseases, and
bacterial vaginosis also should be performed.
Hepatitis vaccine should be administered
when appropriate for patients who are negative for hepatitis B. If asymptomatic bacteriuria is found, the patient should receive
antibiotics in order to prevent urinary tract
infection and pyelonephritis.
Return visits are recommended 2 weeks after
the initial visit. Low-risk patients are scheduled for monthly visits until the second
trimester, when they should be seen every
two weeks; in the third trimester, they should
be seen every week.
For women with SCD, preeclampsia and
severe anemia have been identified as risk
factors for delivering infants that are small for
their gestational age (1). In the study summarized in table 1, the incidence of preeclampsia
(defined as blood pressure >140/90 mmHg,
proteinuria of >300 mg/2 hours, and pathologic edema), and eclampsia (seizures in addition to features of preeclampsia) in pregnant
women with SCD was 15 percent (1). The
mechanisms for the high incidence of hypertension in this patient population remain
unclear; multiple factors such as placental
ischemia and endothelial injury have been
implicated. Other known risk factors for
preeclampsia, even in women without SCD,
are nulliparity, a history of renal disease or
hypertension, multiple gestation, and diabetes.
Pregnant women with SCD should be
observed closely if blood pressure rises above
125/75 mmHg, if the systolic blood pressure
increases by 30 mmHg, or diastolic blood
pressure increases by 15 mmHg, in association
with edema and proteinuria in the second
trimester. Preeclampsia, which requires
frequent monitoring, can be treated with
bed rest at home or in the hospital, if needed.
If preeclampsia is worsening, delivery of the
fetus may be required if the gestational age is
greater than 32 weeks. Expedited delivery is
recommended for uncontrolled hypertension.
The role of prophylactic transfusions in pregnancy is controversial. One randomized trial
(5) and a retrospective study (6) concluded
that routine prophylactic transfusions from
the onset of pregnancy do not alter the outcome for the fetus or mother. However, one
additional study, also retrospective in nature,
concluded that prophylactic transfusions, if
initiated at about 20 weeks, may be beneficial
(7). A realistic approach may be to avoid routine prophylactic transfusions for uncomplicated pregnancies but to consider initiation
of transfusions for women who have complications such as preeclampsia, severe anemia,
or increasing frequency of pain episodes (8).
Women who have had previous pregnancy
losses or who have multiple gestations may
benefit from the early use of transfusions to
maintain a hemoglobin level above 9 g/dL (8).
Women should receive leukoreduced packed
red blood cells that have been phenotyped for
major and minor antigens. If the primary goal
of transfusions is to reduce the percent of sickle hemoglobin (Hb S), and the hemoglobin
level is high, one approach is to remove 500
mL of whole blood and transfuse 2 units of
packed red blood cells. This procedure can
be done manually or by automated methods
to obtain a posttransfusion hemoglobin level
ranging between 10 and 11 g/dL and to reduce
the percentage of Hb S to between 30 and 40
percent of the total hemoglobin concentration.
The clinical problems of SCD, such as newonset seizures, hepatopathy, acute anemia, and
painful episodes should be evaluated and managed for pregnant women in the same fashion
as for women who are not pregnant.
The frequency of previous acute vaso-occlusive
painful events is usually predictive of the events
during pregnancy, although some patients
may experience an increased frequency of
pain episodes (9,10). Patients with a chronic
pain syndrome should be identified; they
may benefit from an individualized care plan.
Chapter 23: Contraception and Pregnancy
If interruption of pregnancy is considered at
less than 13 weeks, analgesia rather than anesthesia is usually all that is required for suction
curettage. Beyond 13 weeks, hypertonic urea
solutions are injected into the uterus and contractions are stimulated with prostaglandin F2.
Hypertonic sodium chloride should not be
injected because it can cause sickling. Rh-negative women should receive Rh immunoglobulin after therapeutic or spontaneous abortion.
Newer methods for medical termination of
pregnancy are available, but their use has not
been extensively described in women with
SCD (11).
Cardiac function can be compromised because
of chronic hypoxemia and anemia. During
labor, fetal monitoring is useful to detect fetal
distress, which can trigger prompt delivery by
cesarean section. If surgery appears imminent,
simple transfusion or rapid exchange transfusion can be of benefit depending on the baseline hemoglobin levels. The postpartum
patient may require transfusion if she has
undergone extensive blood loss during parturition. Venous thromboembolism can also complicate the postpartum course. To prevent this,
early ambulation is initiated.
Counseling is also an important component
of postpartum care. Results of the screen for
SCD in the infant should be made available
to the mother and father, as well as to the
pediatrician. Contraception and plans for
future pregnancies also should be discussed. If
a woman is considering no future pregnancies,
she can receive preliminary counseling about
tubal ligation for permanent birth control.
Smith JA, Espeland M, Bellevue R, et al.
Pregnancy in sickle cell disease: experience of the
cooperative study of sickle cell disease. Obstet
Gynecol 1996;87:199-203.
2. Freie HMP. Sickle cell disease and hormonal
contraception. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand
3. Diav-Citrin O, Hunnisett L, Sher GD, et al.
Hydroxyurea use during pregnancy: a case report
in sickle cell disease and review of the literature.
Am J Hematol 1999;60:148-50.
4. Byrd DC, Pitts SR, Alexander CK. Hydroxyurea
in two pregnant women with sickle cell anemia.
Pharmacotherapy 1999;19:1459-62.
5. Koshy M, Burd L, Wallace D, et al. Prophylactic
red cell transfusion in pregnant patient with sickle
cell disease. A randomized cooperative study.
N Engl J Med 1988;319:1447-52.
6. Tuck SM, James CE, Brewster EM, et al.
Prophylactic blood transfusion in maternal sickle
cell syndromes. Br J Obstet Gynaecol 1987;94:121-5.
7. Morrison JC, Morrison FS, Floyd RC, et al. Use
of continuous flow erythrocytapheresis in pregnant
patients with sickle cell disease. J Clin Apher
8. Koshy M, Chisum D, Burd L, et al. Management
of sickle cell anemia and pregnancy. J Clin Apher
9. Koshy M, Burd L, Dorn L, et al. Frequency
of pain crisis during pregnancy. Prog Clin Biol Res
10. Koshy M, Leikin J, Dorn L, et al. Evaluation and
management of sickle cell disease in the emergency
department (an 18-year experience): 1974-1992.
Am J Therap 1994;1:309-20.
11. Christin-Maitre S, Bouchard P, Spitz I. Medical
termination of pregnancy. N Engl J Med
Patients with sickle cell disease (SCD) may
require surgery for complications such as aseptic necrosis or cholelithiasis, or for conditions
unrelated to SCD. Multiple authors (1-5) have
reported that the risk of morbidity and mortality in these patients is greater than in the
general population because of anemia, the
propensity for red blood cells to sickle and
obstruct the microvasculature, the presence of
chronic organ damage in some patients, the
risks of hypoxia, and the effects of asplenia.
Risks have been said to be greater for patients
with SCD-SS or SCD-S βo-thalassemia.
Various suggestions for risk reduction have
been made, including correction of anemia by
simple or exchange transfusion, attention to
hydration and oxygenation, postoperative respiratory care, and selection of less aggressive or
extensive surgical procedures. It also has been
suggested (6) that patients undergoing minor
surgical procedures (excluding tonsillectomy
and adenoidectomy) may not require transfusion if special attention is paid to oxygenation
and acid-base status. Several recent reports
of larger series have begun to quantify the
magnitude of risks and provide some guidance
for management (7-9).
Two reports published in 1995 and one in
1998 have added greatly to our understanding
of the magnitude of risk and the management
of surgery in SCD patients. Vichinsky et al.
(7) reported on a multicenter randomized
study of aggressive (exchange) versus simple
transfusion in SCD-SS patients, with both
treatments performed to achieve a hemoglobin
level of 10 g/dL. The authors found no difference in complication rates. The protocol specified a minimum of “8 hours of preoperative
hydration, with intraoperative monitoring
of temperature, blood pressure, electrocardiographic features, and oxygenation.” Postoperative care included the administration of
oxygen, intravenous hydration, monitoring
with pulse oximetry, and respiratory therapy.
These guidelines are now generally accepted
as the standard of perioperative care.
Koshy et al. (8), reporting for the Cooperative
Study of Sickle Cell Disease on 717 patients
with SCD-SS, SCD-SC, SCD-S βo-thalassemia,
and SCD-S β+-thalassemia, reported no deaths
in patients under the age of 14 (42 percent
of the population was under the age of 20).
This nonrandomized study also showed that
postoperative complications increased with
age, with an “estimated odds ratio 1.3 times
increased risk of postoperative complications
per ten years of age, p<0.0001.” Furthermore,
SCD-related complications were more common in those who received regional compared
with general anesthesia and preoperative transfusion resulted in a lower complication rate for
those undergoing low-risk surgery (p=0.006).
Preoperative transfusions were beneficial for
SCD-SC patients undergoing any risk level
of surgery (p=0.009) (8). Neumayer et al. (9),
reporting on SCD-SC patients in the same
Chapter 24: Anesthesia and Surgery
study reported by Vichinsky (7), observed that
“in patients undergoing intraabdominal procedures, the incidence of sickle-related complications was significantly higher in those SC
patients not transfused prior to their surgery.”
In this study, 60 percent of the patients transfused underwent exchange transfusion.
Anecdotal data from all three studies suggests
that tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy should
not be considered low-risk procedures. The
latter procedure, which is often associated
with blood loss, fluid loss, and inability
to take oral hydration, appears to be more
serious for persons with sickle cell syndromes
than for other individuals.
Outcome data from the three studies are
summarized in table 1. While some variation
exists in the incidence of acute chest syndrome and the infection/fever complications,
possibly due to differences in definitions, the
incidences of sickle cell pain, cerebrovascular
accident, and death are similar, lending validity to the management principles described in
the three studies.
Make sure the operating and anesthesia
teams are aware of the diagnosis of a
sickle cell syndrome and the need for
special attention.
In patients with SCD-SS and SCD-S
βo-thalassemia, simple transfusion to
achieve a hemoglobin of 10 g/dL should
be performed before all but the lowestrisk procedures.
For patients with SCD-SC, exchange
transfusions may be needed to avoid complications associated with hyperviscosity.
Alloimmunization should be minimized
by giving antigen-matched blood
(matched K, C, E, S, Fy, and Jk antigens).
Patients with SCD, regardless of genotype,
should all receive careful attention, with
preoperative monitoring of intake and
output, hematocrit, peripheral perfusion,
and oxygenation status.
Intraoperative monitoring of blood
pressure, cardiac rhythm and rate, and
oxygenation should be conducted for
all surgical procedures.
Postoperative care should include attention
to hydration, oxygen administration with
careful monitoring, and respiratory therapy.
Table 1. Outcome of Surgery in Patients With Sickle Cell Disease Who Received Perioperative Transfusions
Postoperative Complications (%)
et al. (8)
et al. (7)
et al. (8)
et al. (9)
SC** All
No. of Surgical
ACS = acute chest syndrome.
* Data include SCD-S βo-thalassemia patients.
** Data include at least one SCD-S β+-thalassemia patient.
Janik J, Seeler AS. Perioperative management in
children with sickle hemoglobinopathy. Pediatr
Surg 1980;15:117-20.
Rutledge R, Groom RD III, Davis JW, et al.
Cholelithiasis in sickle cell anemia: surgical
considerations. South Med 1986;79:28-30.
Gibson JR. Anesthesia for sickle cell diseases
and other hemoglobinopathies. Sem Anesthesia
Ware R, Filston HC, Schultz WH, et al. Elective
cholecystectomy in children with sickle hemoglobinopathies. Successful outcome using a preoperative transfusion regimen. Ann Surg 1988;208:17-22.
Esseltine DW, Baxter MRN, Bevan JC. Sickle
cell states and the anesthetist. Can J Anaesth
Griffin TC, Buchanan GR. Elective surgery on
children with sickle cell disease without preoperative blood transfusion. Pediatr Surg 1993;28:681-5.
Vichinsky EP, Haberkern CM, Neumayr L, et al.
A comparison of conservative and aggressive
transfusion regimens in the perioperative
management of sickle cell disease. N Engl J Med
Koshy M, Weiner SJ, Miller ST, et al. Surgery and
anesthesia in sickle cell disease. Cooperative Study
of Sickle Cell Disease. Blood 1995;66:3676-84.
Neumayr L, Koshy M, Haberkern C, et al.
Surgery in patients with hemoglobin SC disease.
Preoperative transfusion in sickle cell disease study
group. Am J Hematol 1998;57:101-8.
Sickle Cell Information Center
(anesthesia and transfusion guidelines)
Used correctly, transfusion can prevent organ
damage and save the lives of sickle cell disease
(SCD) patients. Used unwisely, transfusion
therapy can result in serious complications.
The choice of several methods, such as simple
transfusion, partial exchange transfusion, and
erythrocytapheresis, depends on the specific
requirements of the patient. Except in severe
anemia, exchange transfusion offers many
benefits and should be made available.
Once a decision is made to transfuse, the type
of red cells to be given is specified and goals
are set for the final posttransfusion hematocrit
and percent sickle hemoglobin (Hb S) desired.
In general, phenotypically matched, sicklenegative, leukodepleted packed cells are the
blood product of choice, and a posttransfusion
hematocrit of 36 percent or less is recommended, since a higher value theoretically causes
hyperviscosity, which is dangerous to sickle
cell patients. A comprehensive transfusion
protocol should include accurate records of
the patient’s red cell phenotype, alloimmunization history, number of units received, serial
Hb S percentages, and results of monitoring
for infectious diseases and iron overload.
Transfusions are used to raise the oxygencarrying capacity of blood and decrease the
proportion of sickle red cells. Clinically, they
will improve microvascular perfusion of tissues.
Transfusions usually fall into two categories:
episodic, acute transfusions to stabilize or reverse
complications, and long-term, prophylactic
transfusions to prevent future complications (1).
In severely anemic patients, simple transfusions
should be used without removal of any blood
from the patient. The most common causes
of acute anemia are acute splenic sequestration
(described in chapter 18, Splenic Sequestration)
and transient red cell aplasia (see chapter 12,
Transient Red Cell Aplasia). A third form of
acute anemia, called hyperhemolysis, is associated with infection (see chapter 11, Infection),
acute chest syndrome (see chapter 16, Acute
Chest Syndrome and Other Pulmonary
Complications), and particularly, malaria.
In patients hospitalized for pain episodes and
other events, the Hb concentration may fall
well below the admission value. If the patient
is stable and the reticulocyte count high
(>20 percent or >250,000/µL), transfusions
can be deferred. In general, patients should
be transfused if there is sufficient physiological
derangement to result in heart failure, dyspnea,
hypotension, or marked fatigue. Such symptoms tend to occur during an acute illness
when hemoglobin falls under 5 g/dL. Patients
with an acute event associated with falling
hemoglobin can die suddenly from cardiovascular collapse and should be monitored closely.
Chapter 25: Transfusion, Iron Overload, and Chelation
Leading causes of death in SCD, such as
acute chest syndrome (see chapter 16, Acute
Chest Syndrome and Other Pulmonary
Complications), stroke (see chapter 13,
Stroke and Central Nervous System Disease),
sepsis, and acute multiorgan failure often are
accompanied by a falling hemoglobin level.
Transfusions can improve tissue oxygenation
and perfusion and are indicated in seriously ill
patients to potentially limit areas of vaso-occlusion. Controlled clinical trials to evaluate transfusions in most life-threatening situations have
not been performed, so medical practice is
based mainly on clinical observations. However,
limited studies indicate that aggressive transfusion regimens may improve recovery of organ
function and survival in instances of acute
multiorgan failure (2). In general, the goal is
to maintain a Hb S level below 30 percent.
A multi-institution study recently compared
perioperative complications among sickle cell
patients undergoing major surgery (e.g., cholecystectomy) (3). Patients were randomized
to an aggressive transfusion arm (to decrease
Hb S to below 30 percent) or a conservative
transfusion arm (with Hb S at about 60 percent, total Hb corrected to 10 g/dL). The
groups also were compared to patients who
did not receive any perioperative transfusions.
Complications occurred in all groups but were
substantially more frequent in nontransfused
patients. There was no difference between
the conservatively and aggressively transfused
patients with respect to perioperative complications; however, the latter group had a higher
alloimmunization rate.
Thus, there is good evidence to recommend
that sickle cell patients be transfused before
major surgery. Anemia should be corrected
to a Hb concentration of about 10 g/dL and
the Hb S level should be approximately 60
percent or lower. Although practice guidelines
have not been established, it is generally
acceptable to omit preoperative transfusions
in healthy SCD-SC patients and stable SCDSS patients who undergo minor surgery (see
chapter 24, Anesthesia and Surgery).
Chronic transfusion therapy is indicated
when avoidance of potentially serious medical
complications justifies the risks of alloimmunization, infection, and iron overload (4,5).
The goal is to maintain the Hb S level
between 30 and 50 percent, depending on
the specific problem. Transfusions are usually
repeated every 3 or 4 weeks. While simple
transfusions may be used, red cell pheresis
or exchange transfusions may help to decrease
the risk of iron overload (6).
Chronic transfusion therapy may be warranted
for the primary prevention of stroke and
prevention of stroke recurrence (see chapter
13, Stroke and Central Nervous System
Disease). It may also be used to treat chronic
debilitating pain (see chapter 10, Pain), pulmonary hypertension (see chapter 16, Acute
Chest Syndrome and Other Pulmonary
Complications), and anemia associated with
chronic renal failure (see chapter 19, Renal
Abnormalities in Sickle Cell Disease). In
patients with chronic heart failure, transfusion
therapy may assist cardiac treatments and
improve quality of life (see chapter 15,
Cardiovascular Manifestations).
Transfusions are sometimes suggested for conditions in which efficacy is unproven, but may
be considered under extreme circumstances
as described in chapter 20, Priapism; chapter
22, Leg Ulcers; and chapter 23, Contraception
and Pregnancy.
Minor surgery that does not require
prolonged general anesthesia (e.g.,
Aseptic necrosis of the hip or shoulder
(except when surgery is required).
Uncomplicated pregnancies.
In the past, sickle cell patients were at increased
risk of sickling when given hypertonic contrast
media for radiographic examinations. To
eliminate this problem, transfusion was recommended beforehand, but new agents, such
as gadolinium and nonionic contrast media,
now lower the risk.
Subclinical infarcts detected by magnetic
resonance technology often are associated with
neurocognitive defects. Patients who have subclinical infarcts appear to have a higher incidence of strokes, but the efficacy of preventive
transfusion has not been evaluated in these
patients. Until rigorous controlled trials are
conducted, routine chronic transfusion therapy
cannot be recommended.
The following conditions alone do not justify
Chronic steady-state anemia. Most
patients with SCD are relatively
asymptomatic from their anemia and
do not require transfusions to improve
oxygen delivery.
Uncomplicated acute pain episodes.
Standard bank blood is appropriate for
patients with SCD. The “age” of the blood
(time since collection) is usually not important, as long as it is within limits set by the
transfusion service. Exchange transfusion
with blood less than 5 days old (less than 3
days old for small infants) helps in acute situations requiring immediate correction of oxygen-carrying capacity. All blood should be
screened for the absence of sickle hemoglobin;
a solubility test is adequate. This eliminates
blood with sickle cell trait, which can confuse
later measurements of the proportion of sickle
cells or Hb S. The antigenic phenotype of the
red cells (at least ABO, Rh, Kell, Duffy, Kidd,
Lewis, Lutheran, P, and MNS groups) should
be determined in all patients older than 6
months of age. A permanent record of the
phenotyping should be maintained in the
blood bank to optimize matching, and
a copy of the record should be given to the
patient or family. All patients with a history
of prior transfusion should be screened for
the presence of alloantibodies. The efficacy
of a chronic transfusion program should be
assessed periodically by determination of the
proportion of Hb S by quantitative hemoglobin electrophoresis as well as the hemoglobin
concentration or hematocrit.
There are several causes of the high prevalence of alloimmunization in SCD, and phenotypic incompatibility between the donor
Chapter 25: Transfusion, Iron Overload, and Chelation
and recipient is a major factor (7). Limited
matching for E, C, and Kell antigens is usually
performed, unless patients have antibodies (8).
Prestorage leukodepletion of red cells is
standard practice to reduce febrile reactions,
platelet refractoriness, infections, and cytokineinduced complications (9). Washed red cells
should be reserved for patients who had allergic reactions after prior transfusions. Irradiated
blood should be considered in patients likely
to be candidates for bone marrow transplantation, but relatives should not be used as blood
donors for children who are such candidates.
The use of autologous blood transfusions in
SCD should be avoided. Red cell substitutes
are experimental and generally not indicated.
Simple transfusions can be used for acute
anemia or hypovolemia. Packed red cells
are preferred, except when marked volume
expansion is needed.
Once a sufficient level of transfused normal
cells [60-70 percent normal hemoglobin (Hb
A)] is achieved, simple transfusions every 2 to
4 weeks may maintain this proportion of normal cells for years. The level of Hb A must be
monitored regularly by quantitative hemoglobin electrophoresis. Significant variation in
transfusion requirements for each patient is
common, but the pretransfusion hematocrit
should be between 25 and 30 percent. The
posttransfusion hematocrit should be 36 percent or less to prevent hyperviscosity, especially
for initial transfusions.
Exchange transfusion is used to remove sickle
cells and replace them with normal red cells
without increasing whole blood viscosity or
chronic iron burden (6,10). The volume of
blood needed can be calculated from the
patient’s weight, initial hematocrit, target
hematocrit, and desired percentage of Hb A.
An adult exchange usually takes about 6 to 8
units, and children require about 50 to 60
mL/kg of blood. Whole blood or packed cells
reconstituted to hematocrits of 30 to 40 percent are used to conserve units, but exchanges
will take longer than with packed cells alone.
Blood can be removed from the adult patient
in 500 mL aliquots, followed by infusion of
500 mL of reconstituted blood, repeated for
6 to 8 cycles, or another schedule can be used.
The following is an example:
Step 1. Bleed one unit (500 mL) of blood
from patient, infuse 500 mL of saline.
Bleed a second unit from the patient,
infuse two units of blood.
Step 2.
Step 3. Repeat steps 1 and 2; if the patient has
a large red blood cell mass, repeat once more.
For children, smaller, more precise volumes
should be calculated and used in order not
to remove or transfuse too much blood at one
time. In some patients, whole blood can be
taken from one arm at the same time that
donor cells are transfused into the other.
For adults, this procedure can be performed
in 500 mL units, whereas in children, smaller
amounts are practical. Automated erythrocytapheresis is safe and is being used fairly often
because it prevents iron overload, despite
concerns about increased red cell utilization,
venous access, and increased cost. When
exchange transfusion is performed, the final
hemoglobin value should not exceed 10 to 12
g/dL to avoid hyperviscosity, and the percentage of Hb A should meet the goals of therapy.
Transfusion complications, such as
alloimmunization, hyperviscosity, and relative
hypertension, may be higher for sickle cell
patients than for members of the general
population (1). Transfusions have precipitated
pain episodes, strokes, and acute pulmonary
This condition occurs when a large volume
of blood is transfused too quickly. Congestive
heart failure and pulmonary edema tend to
occur in patients who have cardiac dysfunction or poor cardiac reserve. Administration
of intravenous furosemide, partial removal
of red cell supernatant fluid before transfusion,
and a slow transfusion rate can help to prevent
this problem.
The incidence of alloimmunization to red
blood cell antigens in transfused patients with
sickle cell anemia is approximately 20 to 25
percent, which is greater than in the general
population (7). This condition causes difficulty
in obtaining compatible blood and results in
a high incidence of delayed hemolytic transfusion reactions (12,13). Reactions occur 5
to 20 days after transfusion and are due to
antibodies undetectable at the time of compatibility testing. More than 30 percent of
antibodies disappear with time, but recipients
can mount anamnestic responses to further
stimulation by transfusion. Delayed hemolytic
transfusion reactions may cause severe anemia,
painful events, and even death.
The causes of acute hemolytic transfusion
reactions in sickle cell patients are not different from those in other patients. Major
hemolytic reactions occur mainly with major
blood group (ABO) mismatches and must be
treated aggressively to maintain blood pressure
and glomerular filtration. Most reactions can
be prevented by avoiding clerical and sample
identification errors in the cross-matching and
transfer of units from the donor site to the
patient. Minor hemolytic reactions occur
when the amount of antibody in the patient’s
serum is limiting and causes the transfused
blood to disappear over several days, followed
by hyperbilirubinemia. The hematocrit
decreases, but no further treatment is needed
unless the hematocrit falls greatly.
Any of these reactions, particularly the delayed
variety, can initiate a pain episode in patients
with SCD. In all cases, a patient’s blood
should be examined very carefully by
immunohematologists to document the antibody or antibodies responsible for the reaction. The patient must be told of the complication and be given a card describing the antibodies found.
Alloimmunization and hemolytic transfusion
reactions can be reduced by:
Acquiring and maintaining adequate
records of previous transfusions and
complications arising from them.
Limiting the number of transfusions
Screening for newly acquired antibodies
1 to 2 months after each transfusion
to detect transient antibodies that cause
a subsequent delayed reaction.
Chapter 25: Transfusion, Iron Overload, and Chelation
Diminishing the opportunities for alloimmunization because of a mismatch in
the antigens of donors and patients (14).
This may be accomplished by:
– Typing the patient before transfusion
(if this has not already been done) for Rh
and Kell blood group antigens to avoid
transfusion of cells with these antigens
(particularly E, C, and Kell) if the patient
lacks them.
– More extensive antigen matching in
patients who are already alloimmunized.
– Increasing the numbers of AfricanAmerican blood donors because of the
similarity of their blood cell antigenic
phenotypes. Family members and community groups can assist in accomplishing
this objective.
Patients alloimmunized to one red cell antigen
are more likely to become alloimmunized to
others. Transfusions should be given only for
clearcut indications, and care should be taken
in the selection of units of blood. Patients
should be counseled to advise any new physician of their history of alloimmunization and
to carry a card or identification bracelet that
lists their red blood cell phenotype and any
identified antibodies.
In a highly alloimmunized patient, a syndrome
of autoimmune hemolytic anemia may occur.
In this case, the patient may become more
anemic than before transfusion, and the direct
antiglobulin (Coombs’) test remains positive
even after the incompatible transfused cells
have been destroyed. Autoimmune anemia
occurs because the recipient produces antibodies against self-antigens, which may persist up
to 2 to 3 months before disappearing. Further
transfusion is complicated by the autoimmune
antibody and requires special blood bank tests
to find the least incompatible units for transfusion. Although transfusion may be necessary in
some patients, an alternative course may be to
avoid transfusion and to administer corticosteroids, large doses of erythropoietin, and possibly intravenous immune globulin.
Patients who are transfused may become
alloimmunized to antigens present on leukocytes or platelets but absent from red blood
cells. Such antibodies may cause febrile reactions that can be prevented by the removal
of leukocytes by filtration or washing. These
antibodies, and those for serum proteins,
can cause allergic reactions that can be prevented by prophylaxis with an antihistamine
(Benadryl®), leukodepletion, or removal
of plasma.
Hepatitis and other transfusion-transmitted
viral diseases in blood occur with the same
frequency in sickle cell patients as in other
patients who receive transfusions. The consequences may be more severe with concurrent
SCD, however. Patients who have received
multiple transfusions should be monitored
serially for hepatitis C and other infections
(15,16). Parvovirus occurs in 1 in every 40,000
units, and is associated with acute anemic
events and multiple sickle cell complications.
Transfusion-induced bacterial infections are
uncommon. Repeatedly transfused hemoglobinopathy patients are particularly vulnerable
to Yersinia entercolitica and bacteremia from
poor skin cleansing before phlebotomy. All
patients who develop fever after transfusion
need to be assessed immediately for potential
bacterial infection.
Iron overload in sickle cell patients is often
undetected or not treated. In contrast to thalassemia patients, most patients are iron overloaded because of intermittent transfusions
throughout their lives. There is no evidence
that SCD patients are spared the fatal consequences of iron overload. Therefore, a comprehensive program to monitor and treat iron
overload is necessary.
There is no simple test to determine iron
overload. Measurement of serial serum ferritins may help but can be unreliable because
ferritin is an acute phase reactant and values
are altered by liver disease, inflammation,
and vitamin C stores. Liver biopsy is the most
accurate test for iron overload and can be
performed safely by an experienced physician.
The sample should be of adequate size and
sent to a reference lab familiar with liver iron
quantitation. Some programs recommend liver
biopsies at the start of chelation and every 2
years thereafter. As a noninvasive method, the
superconducting quantum interference device
(SQUID) is acceptable for quantitating liver
iron (10). There is progress with MRI and
CT, but their clinical use is unproven. The
best indication to begin chelation therapy is
a rise in liver iron stores to 7 mg/g dry weight.
Alternatively, cumulative transfusions of 120
cc of pure red cells per kilogram of body
weight can be used (5). Serum ferritin levels
above 1,000 ng/mL in the steady state are
helpful, but the risk of under- and overtreatment occurs. All iron-overloaded patients
should be followed at comprehensive sickle
cell centers that can monitor organ toxicity
and provide ongoing education and support.
Exchange transfusions and chelation therapy
are the only two accepted methods to manage
transfusion-related iron overload. Phlebotomy
will remove iron in abnormal red cells, which
are replaced by normal red cells. The initial
dose of the chelator deferoxamine (Desferal™)
is 25 mg/kg per day, over 8 hours subcutaneously (17); dose and duration of infusion
can be increased, depending on patient age and
iron load. Supplementation with vitamin C,
100 to 200 mg per day, may help to increase
excretion, especially in those who are vitamin
C deficient. New methods of delivery, including twice-daily subcutaneous injections and
intravenous home parenteral access, are being
studied. Deferoxamine is generally safe, but has
been associated with ototoxicity, eye toxicity,
allergic reactions, growth failure, unusual infections, and pulmonary hypersensitivity; therefore, patients should be monitored annually for
growth and eye toxicity. Iron chelation always
should be discontinued during an acute infection. Other chelators are experimental and are
not recommended at this time.
Ohene-Frempong K. Indications for red cell
transfusion in sickle cell disease. Sem Hematol
2001;38(Suppl 1):5-13.
Hassell KL, Eckman JR, Lane PA. Acute multiorgan failure syndrome: a potentially catastrophic
complication of severe sickle cell pain episodes.
Am J Med 1994;96:155-62.
Vichinsky EP, Haberkern CM, Neumayr L, et al.
A comparison of conservative and aggressive transfusion regimens in the perioperative management
of sickle cell disease. The Preoperative Transfusion
in Sickle Cell Disease Study Group. N Engl J Med
Styles LA, Vichinsky E. Effects of a long-term
transfusion regimen on sickle cell-related illnesses.
J Pediatr 1994;125:909-11.
Vichinsky E. Guest editor. Consensus document
for transfusion-related iron overloads. Sem Hematol
2001;38(Suppl 1):2-4.
Chapter 25: Transfusion, Iron Overload, and Chelation
Singer ST, Quirolo K, Nishi K, et al. Erythrocytapheresis for chronically transfused children with
sickle cell disease: an effective method for maintaining a low hemoglobin S level and reducing iron
overload. J Clin Apheresis 1999;14:122-5.
7. Rosse WF, Gallagher D, Kinney TR, et al.
Transfusion and alloimmunization in sickle cell
disease. The Cooperative Study of Sickle Cell
Disease. Blood 1990;76:1431-7.
8. Sosler SD, Jilly BJ, Saporito C, et al. A simple, practical model for reducing alloimmunization
in patients with sickle cell disease. Am J Hematol
9. Brand A. Passenger leukocytes, cytokines, and transfusion reactions. N Engl J Med 1994;331:670-1.
10. Brittenham GW, Cohen AR, McLaren CE, et al.
Hepatic iron stores and plasma ferritin concentration in patients with sickle cell anemia and thalassemia major. Am J Hematol 1993;42:81-5.
11. Pegelow CH, Colangelo L, Steinberg M, et al.
Natural history of blood pressure in sickle cell
disease: risks for stroke and death associated with
relative hypertension in sickle cell anemia. Am J
Med 1997;102:171-7.
12. King KE, Shirey RS, Lankiewicz MW, et al.
Delayed hemolytic transfusion reactions in sickle
cell disease: simultaneous destruction of recipients’
red cells. Transfusion 1997;37:376-81.
13. Petz LD, Calhoun L, Shulman IA, et al. The sickle
cell hemolytic transfusion reaction syndrome.
Transfusion 1997;37:382-92.
14. Tahhan HR, Holbrook CT, Braddy LR, et al.
Antigen-matched donor blood in the transfusion
management of patients with sickle cell disease.
Transfusion 1994;34:562-9.
15. Hasan MF, Marsh F, Posner G, et al. Chronic
hepatitis C in patients with sickle cell disease.
Am J Gastroenterol 1996;91:1204-6.
16. Schreiber GB, Busch MP, Kleinman SH, et al.
The risk of transfusion-transmitted viral infections.
The Retrovirus Epidemiology Donor Study.
N Engl J Med 1996;334:1685-90.
17. Silliman CC, Peterson VM, Mellman DL, et al.
Iron chelation by desferrioxamine in sickle cell
patients with severe transfusion-induced hemosiderosis: a randomized, double-blind study of
the dose-response relationship. J Lab Clin Med
Enhanced concentrations of hemoglobin F
(Hb F) can inhibit sickle hemoglobin (Hb S)
polymerization and red cell sickling and
improve the clinical course of sickle cell disease (SCD). In populations such as Bedouin
Arabs from the Saudi peninsula and certain
tribes from central India, patients homozygous
for SCD have elevated amounts of Hb F and
fairly mild clinical manifestations. In a cooperative study of the natural history of patients
with sickle cell anemia in the United States,
the frequency of pain episodes correlated
inversely with the Hb F concentration. Based
on these epidemiologic studies and understanding the biophysics of Hb S polymerization, a search was launched for pharmacologic
agents that could reverse the switch from
γ- to β-globin chain synthesis in erythroid
precursors. The first “hemoglobin switching”
agent was the nucleoside analog 5-azacytidine
(1), which was followed by butyrate derivatives as compounds which increase Hb F gene
expression. Other drugs, such as hydroxyurea
and erythropoietin, alter maturation of erythroid precursors and promote Hb F production indirectly.
The small amount of Hb F in adults is found
in rare erythrocytes called F-cells. Rapid erythropoiesis induces F-cell production, probably due to commitment of early progenitors
that contain factors that favor γ-globin expression and faster maturation and release into the
circulation. Many cytotoxic drugs induce Hb
F expression without gene hypomethylation,
and hydroxyurea is one example that supports
erythroid regeneration as a mechanism of Hb
F induction.
Hydroxyurea is a ribonucleotide reductase
inhibitor, which blocks ribonucleoside conversion to deoxyribonucleotides and prevents
DNA synthesis. In anemic primates, hydroxyurea increased Hb F levels, and in early studies in two patients with sickle cell anemia,
hydroxyurea increased F-reticulocytes and
Hb F concentrations. An important pilot
trial defined effective dosages, found increased
Hb F in most, but not all, compliant patients,
and revealed little short-term toxicity.
5-azacytidine is an antineoplastic agent that
inhibits methylation of cytosines in DNA.
Studies on gene regulation had suggested that
methylation resulted in repression of transcription and that hypomethylation was associated
with active gene expression. It was observed
that the inactive gene becomes methylated
during the developmental switch from γ-globin to β-globin production in erythroid cells.
The administration of 5-azacytidine caused
a marked increase in Hb F in baboons. These
results prompted limited clinical trials, which
demonstrated significant but less dramatic
induction of Hb F in patients with SCD.
The antiproliferative activity of this drug may
have led to the proposed use of hydroxyurea.
Chapter 26: Fetal Hemoglobin Induction
Butyrates appear to modulate globin-gene
expression by direct binding to transcriptionally active elements, and by inhibition of
histone deacetylase, histone hyperacetylation,
and changes in chromatin structure. In sickle
cell anemia, early trials of butyrate given by
continuous infusion over 2 or 3 weeks were
inconclusive, but newer studies with pulse
butyrate treatment are encouraging. When
arginine butyrate was given once or twice
monthly, 11 of 15 sickle cell patients responded
with a mean rise in Hb F from 7 percent to
21 percent, a level maintained in some people
for 1 to 2 years. The studies also suggested
butyrate and hydroxyurea are synergistic
without cross-resistance; pretreatment with
hydroxyurea may select a population of erythroid precursors with active γ-globin genes
and make them responsive to butyrate.
Butyrate does not seem to be cytotoxic,
but its use is experimental.
A pivotal multicenter efficacy trial of hydroxyurea in 299 adults with sickle cell anemia
showed that hydroxyurea reduced by nearly
half the frequency of hospitalization and the
incidence of pain, acute chest syndrome, and
blood transfusions (2). In good responders,
hemolysis and leukocyte counts fell, and
hemoglobin concentrations increased.
Hb F increased from a baseline of 5 percent
to about 9 percent after 2 years of treatment;
Hb F increased to a mean of 18 percent in
the top 25 percent of Hb F responders and
to 9 percent in the next highest 25 percent,
but changed little in the lower half of Hb F
responders. These results may not be typical
of all patients because the patients in the
study had a mean age of about 30 years, had
severe disease, and were treated to the brink of
myelotoxicity. After treatment, some individuals
had improved physical capacity and aerobic
cardiovascular fitness. A modest improvement
in general perceptions of health and social
function and recall of pain was found.
Moreover, hydroxyurea was cost-effective
and clinically beneficial.
Studies of hydroxyurea in infants, children,
and adolescents lag behind adult studies in
the appraisal of clinical efficacy. Most patients
reported were adolescents or teenagers treated
in unblinded pilot studies, although 25
patients with a median age of 9 years were
treated in a single-blinded crossover study
with drug or placebo. In all trials, Hb F
increased from about 5 percent before treatment to about 16 percent after 6 months
to a year of treatment.
A trial of 84 children with a mean age of 10
years gave results similar to those in adults (3).
Sixty-eight patients reached the maximally tolerated dose, and 52 patients completed a year
of treatment. About 20 percent of enrolled
patients withdrew from the study, predominantly because of lack of compliance. Baseline
Hb F of 6.8 percent increased to 19.8 percent
(range, 3.2-32.4 percent). Mean cell volume
(MCV) and hemoglobin concentration
increased, and the leukocyte count fell. These
changes, apparent after 6 months of treatment,
were sustained at 24 months. The increment in
Hb F was variable, but unlike the adults, the
young patients with the highest baseline Hb F
concentration had the highest Hb F levels with
treatment, and the drop in leukocyte count did
not predict the rise in Hb F.
Twenty-nine infants, with a median age of
14 months, were treated with hydroxyurea at
a dose of 20 mg/kg for 2 years, escalating to
30 mg/kg thereafter. After 2 years, all parents
elected to continue treatment, and 19 children
completed a median treatment period of 148
weeks. Changes in hemoglobin concentration,
MCV, Hb F, and leukocyte count were compared with the changes observed in a historical
control group. Hemoglobin increased from
8.5 to 8.9 g/dL (predicted, 8.2 g/dL), MCV
increased from 82 to 93 fL (predicted, 88 fL),
and Hb F fell from 21.3 to 19.6 percent
(predicted, 12.3 percent). Functional asplenia
was found in 24 percent of patients before
treatment and in 47 percent after treatment
(predicted, 80 percent). Nine patients were
dropped from the study because of poor
compliance or parental refusal to continue;
one child died of splenic sequestration. One
patient had a transient ischemic attack, one
had a mild stroke, eight had episodes of acute
chest syndrome, two had splenic sequestration,
and three had episodes of sepsis. Growth was
normal. Despite moderate levels of Hb F,
acute complications of sickle cell anemia still
occurred in these very young patients. Perhaps
functional asplenia is delayed by treatment,
but risks of splenic sequestration and other
complications may persist.
The best data on the complications of hydroxyurea treatment and its effect on morbidity and
mortality come from the followup of patients
in the Multicenter Study of Hydroxyurea in
Sickle Cell Disease. After 8 years of followup
the data strongly suggest that treatment of
moderately-to-severely affected adults with
sickle cell anemia with hydroxyurea is associated with reduced mortality. Twelve strokes have
occured, 9 in patients with more than 1 year
of hydroxyurea treatment, 2 in patients with
less than 1 year of drug exposure, and 1 in
a patient who never received hydroxyurea.
New adverse effects have not been found.
Pulmonary disease was the most common
cause of death.
We do not know whether hydroxyurea will
prevent or reverse organ damage (4). After 1
year of treatment, splenic function in a group
of children who averaged 12 years of age did
not change. Of 10 patients with sickle cell
anemia who received hydroxyurea for 21
months and had an increase in Hb F from
8 to 17 percent, only 1 recovered splenic
function. In another prospective study, some
patients had partial return of splenic function,
possibly related to Hb F levels. Splenic regeneration was reported in 2 adults with sickle
cell anemia who had Hb F levels of about
30 percent after hydroxyurea treatment.
Hydroxyurea does not appear to prevent
the cerebrovascular complications of SCD.
However, in children ages 5 to 15 years without a history of overt CVA and with more
than three painful episodes yearly, hydroxyurea
maintained cognitive performance comparable
to sibling controls. Performance was found
to deteriorate in untreated patients.
Long-term effects of hydroxyurea are still
poorly defined. The multicenter trial had
power to detect only 100-fold increases in the
incidence of leukemia or cancer. Hydroxyurea
has been given to 64 children with cyanotic
congenital heart disease for a mean duration
of more than 5 years without any reports of
malignancies. In myeloproliferative disorders,
however, the drug may have helped to transform premalignant conditions into acute
leukemia in about 10 percent of patients.
There are at least three patients with SCD
treated with hydroxyurea who developed
Chapter 26: Fetal Hemoglobin Induction
leukemia, two after 6 and 8 years of treatment.
Cellular changes that may precede neoplastic
transformation, such as increases in chromosome breakage, recombination, and mutations,
have not been reported in hydroxyurea-treated
sickle cell patients.
Adverse effects on growth and development
have not been reported. Whether continuous
drug exposure at a very young age will be
especially hazardous or beneficial is not
known. Contraception should be practiced
by both women and men on hydroxyurea,
and the uncertain outcome of an unplanned
pregnancy should be discussed frankly.
Pregnancy resulting in infants without malformaions has been reported in at least 15
women receiving hydroxyurea; most mothers
had myeloproliferative disorders, but 6 had
sickle cell anemia.
Table 1 summarizes the treatment protocol
and points that should be considered when
using hydroxyurea as a treatment for patients
with sickle cell anemia.
Hydroxyurea is a valuable adjunct in the
treatment of severe SCD, although its clinical
effectiveness for individuals with SCD has
not yet been reported. Meanwhile, it must
be used carefully with full appreciation of its
toxicity and possible long-term adverse effects.
Many questions about its use and effects
remain unanswered. Hydroxyurea is not the
final solution in the pharmacologic therapy
of SCD, but it is a promising start.
When both hydroxyurea and erythropoietin
were given to patients with sickle cell anemia,
an increment in Hb F concentration beyond
that seen with hydroxyurea alone occurred (5).
It is conceivable that combination therapy
with butyrate and hydroxyurea and/or erythropoietin may provide additive effects on
Hb F production, although verification of this
conclusion must await the results of appropriate clinical trials.
DeSimone J, Heller P, Hall L, et al. 5-Azacytidine
stimulates fetal hemoglobin synthesis in anemia
baboons. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 1982;79:4428-31.
Charache S, Terrin ML, Moore RD, et al.
Multicenter Study of Hydroxyurea in Sickle Cell
Anemia. Effect of hydroxyurea on the frequency of
painful crises in sickle cell anemia. N Engl J Med
Kinney TR, Helms RW, O’Branski EE, et al. Safety
of hydroxyurea in children with sickle cell anemia:
results of the HUG-KIDS study, a phase I/II trial.
Blood 1999;94:1550-4.
Steinberg MH. Management of sickle cell disease.
N Engl J Med 1999;340:1021-30.
Rodgers GP, Dover GJ, Uyesaka N, et al.
Augmentation by erythropoietin of the fetalhemoglobin response to hydroxyurea in sickle
cell disease. N Engl J Med 1993;328:73-80.
Table 1. Hydroxyurea in Sickle Cell Anemia
Indications for Treatment
Adults, adolescents, or children (after consultation with parents and expert pediatricians) with sickle cell
anemia or SCD-S βo-thalassemia and frequent pain episodes, history of acute chest syndrome, other severe
vaso-occlusive events, or severe symptomatic anemia. Initial high levels of Hb F (e.g., >10 percent) do not
preclude favorable responses to therapy.
Baseline Evaluation
Blood counts, red cell indices, percent Hb F, serum chemistries, pregnancy test, willingness to follow
treatment recommendations, nonparticipation in a chronic transfusion program.
Initiation of Treatment
Hydroxyurea, 10-15 mg/kg/day in a single daily dose for 6-8 weeks; CBC every 2 weeks; percent Hb F
every 6-8 weeks; serum chemistries every 2-4 weeks.
Continuation of Treatment
If no major toxicity, escalate dose every 6-8 weeks until the desired endpoint is reached.
Treatment Endpoints
Less pain, increase in Hb F to 15-20 percent, increased hemoglobin level if severely anemic,
improved well-being, acceptable myelotoxicity.
Failure of Hb F (or MCV) To Increase
Consider biological inability to respond to treatment or poor compliance with treatment. Increase dose
very cautiously to a maximum dose of 35 mg/kg/day. In the absence of transfusion support or concurrent
illness suppressing erythropoiesis, a trial period of 6-12 months is probably adequate.
Special caution should be taken in patients with compromised renal or hepatic function. Contraception
should be practiced by both men and women since hydroxyurea is a teratogen and its effects during
pregnancy are unknown. After a stable, nontoxic dose of hydroxyurea is reached, blood counts may be
done at 4-8 week intervals. Granulocytes should be ≥ 2,500/µL, platelets ≥ 95,000/µL.
Hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT)
has curative potential for a broad spectrum of
genetic disorders, including sickle cell disease
(SCD) (1). The goal is to eliminate the sickle
erythrocyte and its cellular progenitors and
replace them with donor hematopoietic
pluripotent stem cells that give rise to erythrocytes that express no sickle hemoglobin (Hb
S), thereby reducing Hb S levels to those associated with the trait condition. The possibility
of preventing serious complications from SCD,
which can cause extensive morbidity and early
death, is balanced by the risk of severe adverse
events after transplantation. The first case
reports of successful outcomes after transplantation have been extended by several multicenter investigations (table 1). To date, nearly all
transplants have utilized HLA-identical sibling
donors, which has limited the number of eligible sickle cell patients. Thus, there are no randomized, controlled studies that support this
therapeutic option for SCD. However, with
the development of new therapies that prevent
and treat graft-versus-host and host-versus-graft
reactions, it is likely that transplantation will
take on added importance for selected patients
with SCD.
The first published reports of HCT for SCD
involved patients who had other hematological
or genetic disorders that were the primary
indication for transplantation (2,3). From this
initial experience it was learned that engraftment of donor cells was associated with elimi-
nation of SCD. In the decade and longer that
followed, there was considerable discussion
about who should be considered and when
they should be referred for transplantation
(13-15). The first limited series of patients
who underwent transplantation because
they had SCD comprised a group of families
from Africa living at the time in Belgium (4).
Based in part on the very good outcome
experienced by these initial patients, several
multicenter phase II studies for children with
symptomatic SCD were conducted in North
America and Europe (7,9). It was reasoned
that children might have a superior outcome
compared to adult patients because of children’s lower risk of transplant-related complications such as graft-versus-host disease
(GvHD) and because of a presumed lower
burden of sickle-related organ damage. The
inclusion and exclusion criteria for enrollment
adapted from one multicenter study (7) are
summarized in table 2.
Approximately 150 patients have undergone
HCT from HLA-identical siblings worldwide
(9,10,16,17). The combined results of three
studies have demonstrated that transplantrelated mortality is about 5 percent, and that
more than 90 percent of patients survive.
Approximately 85 percent survive free from
SCD after transplantation with a period of
followup that extends to 11 years, but about
10 percent of patients experience recurrence
Chapter 27: Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation
Table 1. Supporting Evidence for HCT for Sickle Cell Disease
Study Description
Case reports
Johnson et al. (2), Milpied et al. (3)
Patient series
Vermylen et al. (4,5)
Proposal of HCT trial
Thomas (6)
Collaborative HCT trial
Walters et al. (7)
Collaborative HCT trial in Europe
Vermylen and Cornu (8)
Long-term impact of HCT
Vermylen et al. (9), Walters et al. (10)
UCB report
Brichard et al. (11), Minero et al. (12)
Table 2. Eligibility Criteria for HCT for Sickle Cell Disease
Patients < 16 years of age with sickle cell anemia (SCD-SS or SCD-S βo-thalassemia)
One or more of the following complications:
Stroke or central nervous system (CNS) event lasting longer than 24 hours
Impaired neuropsychologic function and abnormal cerebral magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
Recurrent acute chest syndrome or Stage I or II sickle lung disease
Recurrent vaso-occlusive painful episodes
Sickle nephropathy [glomular filtration rate (GFR) 30-50 percent of predicted normal]
Osteonecrosis of multiple joints
Patients >16 years of age
HLA-non-identical donor
One or more of the following conditions:
Lansky performance score <70 percent
Acute hepatitis or biopsy evidence of cirrhosis
Renal impairment (GFR <30 percent predicted normal)
Stage III or IV sickle lung disease
of SCD. Neurologic complications, such as
seizures, occurred frequently after transplantation, leading to the development of preventive
measures (18-20).
Among patients who had stable engraftment
of donor cells, there were no subsequent sickle
cell-related clinical events, and there was stabilization of preexisting sickle cell-related organ
damage (9,10,21). There was also recovery
of splenic function (22). Some patients
developed mixed donor-host hematopoietic
chimerism after transplantation that was stable
(23). Of interest, these patients also had no
symptoms from SCD.
About 5 percent of patients developed Grade
III acute or extensive chronic GvHD; the
others had no graft-vs-host response or mild
GvHD. Primary and secondary amenorrhea
were common among females after transplantation and it is likely that most patients will
be infertile (9,10). The risk of secondary cancers after HCT remains uncertain, but it is
estimated to be less than 5 percent (24). Linear
growth was normal or accelerated after transplantation in the majority of patients (9,10).
Umbilical cord blood (UCB) and hematopoietic cells from volunteer donors represent
alternative sources of hematopoietic stem cells
that might increase the number of donors
for SCD patients. Successful hematological
reconstitution has been observed after UCB
transplantation for SCD (11). However, there
are no published reports of transplantation
to treat SCD using UCB from volunteer,
unrelated donors.
There is evidence to suggest that the incidence
of GvHD is lower after UCB transplantation
than after bone marrow transplantation (25).
This advantage is balanced by somewhat
lengthier periods for hematopoietic engraftment and perhaps a higher rate of graft rejection, especially when nonidentical donors
are used and when cell doses are low (26).
Strategies for transplantation from unrelated
volunteer stem cell donors will need to overcome histocompatibility barriers associated
with higher rates of GvHD and graft rejection. There are no established protocols for
transplantation from alternative sources of
stem cells; however, pilot clinical investigations are being designed.
There is very limited information about the
outcome after HCT among adult patients.
However, they might have a higher risk of
dying due, in part, to the increased frequency
of GvHD in adults (27). Compared to
younger patients with β-thalassemia major,
adult patients had an increased risk of dying
after HLA-identical bone marrow transplantation (28), but ethnic factors might have contributed to the risk. The use of nonmyeloablative preparation before HCT may lower the
risk of complications (29). The intent is to
establish stable donor-host hematopoietic
chimerism after transplantation, which might
provide a significant clinical benefit. If successful, the nonmyeloablative approach might
improve the safety profile of HCT for older
individuals who have advanced organ damage
from SCD. Several investigations have been
initiated to test this hypothesis.
Currently, HCT is the only therapy for
SCD that has curative potential. The results
of transplantation are best when performed
in children with a sibling donor who is
Chapter 27: Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation
HLA-identical. While there appears to be
a considerable benefit to those who survive
with stable engraftment of donor cells, there
are also significant health risks associated with
this treatment. Thus, careful discussions with
families by health care professionals experienced in the care of patients with SCD and
with HCT should be conducted to establish
informed consent for this procedure.
HCT is reserved for those patients who have
experienced significant complications caused
by SCD, such as stroke and recurrent episodes
of acute chest syndrome or pain. In the future,
identification of clinical or genetic markers
that reliably predict an adverse outcome may
permit the application of HCT before significant clinical complications occur. Efforts are
ongoing to expand donor availability by overcoming graft-versus-host and host-versus-graft
reactions and to diminish the toxicity of
HCT by using nonmyeloablative preparations
to establish stable donor-host hematopoietic
chimerism. If successful, these efforts could
expand the role of HCT in treating patients
with SCD.
Children with SCD who experience significant, noninfectious complications caused
by vaso-occlusion should be considered for
HCT, and if full siblings are available, HLA
typing should be performed. Families should
be counseled about the collection of UCB
from prospective siblings (30). For severely
affected children who have HLA-identical
sibling donors, families should be informed
about the benefits, risks, and treatment alternatives such as HCT. There are no comparative studies that would permit clinicians to
recommend one intervention, such as chronic
red blood cell transfusions or hydroxyurea
treatment, over another.
Parkman R. The application of bone marrow
transplantation to the treatment of genetic diseases.
Science 1986;232:1373-8.
Johnson FL, Look AT, Gockerman J, et al. Bonemarrow transplantation in a patient with sickle-cell
anemia. N Engl J Med 1984;311:780-3.
Milpied NHJ, Garand R, David A. Bonemarrow transplantation for sickle-cell anaemia.
Lancet (letter) 1988;2:328-9.
Vermylen C, Fernandez Robles E, Ninane J, et al.
Bone marrow transplantation in five children with
sickle cell anaemia. Lancet 1988;1:1427-8.
Vermylen C, Cornu G, Philippe M, et al. Bone
marrow transplantation in sickle cell anaemia.
Arch Dis Child 1991;66:1195-8.
Thomas ED. The pros and cons of bone marrow
transplantation for sickle cell anemia. Sem Hematol
Walters MC, Patience M, Leisenring W, et al.
Bone marrow transplantation for sickle cell disease.
N Engl J Med 1996;335:369-76.
Vermylen C, Cornu G. Bone marrow
transplantation for sickle cell disease. The
European experience. Am J Pediatr Hematol
Oncol 1994;16:18-21.
Vermylen C, Cornu G, Ferster A, et al. Haematopoietic stem cell transplantation for sickle cell
anaemia: the first 50 patients transplanted in
Belgium. Bone Marrow Transplant 1998;22:1-6.
Walters MC, Storb R, Patience M, et al. Impact
of bone marrow transplantation for symptomatic
sickle cell disease: an interim report. Blood
Brichard B, Vermylen C, Ninane J, et al.
Persistence of fetal hemoglobin production after
successful transplantation of cord blood stem cells
in a patient with sickle cell anemia. J Pediatr
Miniero R, Rocha V, Saracco P, et al. Cord blood
transplantation (CBT) in hemoglobinopathies.
Eurocord. Bone Marrow Transplant 1998;22(Suppl
Nagel RL. The dilemma of marrow transplantation
in sickle cell anemia. Sem Hematol 1991;28:233-4.
Davies SC. Bone marrow transplantation for sickle
cell disease. Arch Dis Child 1993;69:176-7.
15. Platt OS, Guinan EC. Bone marrow transplantation in sickle cell anemia—the dilemma of choice.
N Engl J Med 1996;335:426-8.
16. Giardini C, Galimberti M, Lucarelli G, et al.
Bone marrow transplantation in sickle-cell
anemia in Pesaro. Bone Marrow Transplant
1993;12(Suppl 1):122-3.
17. Bernaudin F. Resultats et indications actuelles
de l’allogreffe de moelle dans la drepanocytose.
Path Biolog 1999;47:59-64.
18. Walters MC, Sullivan KM, Bernaudin F, et al.
Neurologic complications after allogeneic marrow
transplantation for sickle cell anemia. Blood
19. Ferster A, Christophe C, Dan B, et al. Neurologic
complications after bone marrow transplantation
for sickle cell anemia. Blood 1995;86:408-9.
20. Abboud MR, Jackson SM, Barredo J, et al.
Neurologic complications following bone marrow
transplantation for sickle cell disease. Bone Marrow
Transplant 1996;17:405-7.
21. Hernigou P, Bernaudin F, Reinert P, et al. Bonemarrow transplantation in sickle-cell disease.
Effect on osteonecrosis: a case report with a fouryear follow-up. J Bone Joint Surg 1997;79:1726-30.
22. Ferster A, Bujan W, Corazza F, et al. Bone marrow
transplantation corrects the splenic reticuloendothelial dysfunction in sickle cell anemia. Blood
23. Sullivan K, Walters MC, Patience M, et al.
Collaborative study of marrow transplantation for
sickle cell disease: aspects specific for transplantation of hemoglobin disorders. Bone Marrow
Transplant 1997;19(Suppl 2):102-5.
24. Curtis RE, Rowlings PA, Deeg HJ, et al. Solid
cancers after bone marrow transplantation.
N Engl J Med 1997;336:897-904.
25. Rocha V, Chastang C, Souillet G, et al. Related
cord blood transplants: the Eurocord experience
from 78 transplants. Eurocord Transplant Group.
Bone Marrow Transplant 1998;21(Suppl 3):S59-62.
26. Gluckman E, Rocha V, Boyer-Chammard A,
et al. Outcome of cord-blood transplantation
from related and unrelated donors. Eurocord
Transplant Group and the European Blood and
Marrow Transplantation Group. N Engl J Med
27. Sullivan KM, Agura E, Anasetti C, et al.
Chronic graft-versus-host disease and other late
complications of bone marrow transplantation.
Sem Hematol 1991;28:250-9.
28. Lucarelli G, Clift RA, Galimberti M, et al.
Bone marrow transplantation in adult thalassemic
patients. Blood 1999;93:1164-7.
29. Storb R, Yu C, Sandmaier BM, et al. Mixed
hematopoietic chimerism after marrow allografts.
Transplantation in the ambulatory care setting.
Ann N York Acad Sci 1999;872:372-6.
30. Lubin BH, Eraklis M, Apicelli G. Umbilical cord
blood banking. Advan Pediatr 1999;46:383-408.
A unique mutation is responsible for sickle
hemoglobin (Hb S), but sickle cell disease
(SCD) is clinically pleiotropic and can be
considered a multigene disease. Polymerization
of Hb S can injure red cells and cause a cascade of pleiotropic effects that determines the
clinical picture (1,2). Some patients are always
sick, and others infrequently ill. What is the
basis of this variability? An environmental
effect on the course of SCD is dramatically
apparent in tropical Africa. Provided there is
good access to medical care, survival to adulthood and a decent quality of life is possible.
Still, SCD in Africa remains a childhood
disease since premature death, often from
malaria, is common.
Most of the pleiotropic effects result from
the activity of other genes—which also may
be polymorphic—that differ among patients.
These epistatic (or modifier) genes may
account for the interindividual variation that
characterizes SCD. Another source of genetic
variation in SCD derives from the multicentric origin of the Hb S gene. Because it arose
more than once, the gene had the opportunity
to interact with different (polymorphic) linked
genes, particularly the two γ-globin genes that
ameliorate SCD through expression of fetal
hemoglobin (Hb F).
The two best understood genetic factors that
influence the clinical expression of the Hb S
mutation are 1) those linked to the synthesis
of fetal hemoglobin (Hb F) (gender, β-globin
gene cluster haplotypes, chromosome 6 locus),
and 2) the copresence of α-thalassemia. These
known factors explain only a small fraction
of the diversity of sickle cell anemia, however.
Other epistatic genes must exist, and based
on our knowledge of the pathophysiology of
SCD, candidate genes have been suggested (3).
Hb F levels in sickle cell anemia vary over two
orders of magnitude. Initially only very high
levels of Hb F were considered capable of
influencing the phenotype of sickle cell anemia (4,5), but any increment in Hb F appears
to be clinically and perhaps therapeutically
important (6).
Hemoglobin gene switching is the process of
sequential globin gene activation and inactivation. It involves complex interactions of stagespecific transcription factors, chromosomal
gene order, gene proximity to the β-globin
locus control region (LCR), cis-acting sequences
that positively and negatively regulate transcription, and erythroid-specific and ubiquitous trans-acting factors (7). By interacting
with promoters of the β-like globin genes,
the LCR plays a critical role in gene expression;
polymorphisms in some of their sequences
Chapter 28: Genetic Modulation of Phenotype by Epistatic Genes
are considered vital elements of γ-globin gene
regulation in sickle cell anemia. Nevertheless,
the full picture of this process is not known.
Four β-globin gene cluster haplotypes are
linked with the independent emergence of four
βs genes in Africa. The three most common are
the Senegal haplotype in Atlantic West Africa,
the Benin haplotype in central West Africa,
and the Bantu haplotype in all Bantu-speaking
African societies (equatorial and southern
Africa) (8). The Arab-Indian haplotype is
found in the Middle East and India.
Although β-globin gene cluster haplotypes
are convenient markers for genetic regulators
of γ-globin gene expression, most polymorphic
endonuclease restriction sites used to assign a
haplotype have no known role in the differential transcription and temporal regulation of
these genes. An exception is the Xmn I site
that is 5' to the Gγ-globin gene in the Senegal
and Arab-India haplotypes (9-11). This site is
strongly associated with high expression of the
Gγ-globin gene compared with the Aγ-globin
gene. In adults and neonates lacking the Hb S
gene, this polymorphism is associated with
small but significant increases in the synthesis
of Hb F and Gγ-globin chains. More recently,
twin studies have implicated it as a major
factor in defining the level of Hb F expression
(see below).
Considerable variation also exists among
patients who have Senegal or Arab-India
haplotypes, although they tend to have higher
Hb F levels than those who have Benin and
Bantu haplotypes. A patient’s sex, in addition
to his or her haplotype, also may modulate
Hb F production (12).
Most of the detailed and larger studies of the
clinical and hematological effects of haplotype
in sickle cell anemia have been in regions
where the Hb S gene arrived by gene flow.
After many years of miscegenation, patients
are commonly haplotype heterozygotes,
complicating the interpretation of potential
associations of haplotype with phenotype.
Therefore, reports of the clinical and hematological effects of haplotype in sickle cell
anemia should be interpreted carefully. Often
too few patients are studied, the patients’ ages
differ among series, clinical events are not
sharply defined, age-dependence of their
phenotype is not considered, and the distinction between haplotype homozygotes and
heterozygotes is not clearly drawn.
In longitudinal studies from the United States,
the Senegal haplotype was associated with
fewer hospitalizations and painful episodes.
The relationship between the Senegal haplotype and reduced frequency of acute chest
syndrome was of marginal significance. The
Bantu haplotype was associated with the highest incidence of organ damage and was strongly associated with renal failure in a study that
used robust statistics and a large number of
patients (13-15). Most work suggests that the
Arab-India haplotype is associated with milder
disease, although vaso-occlusive events are not
rare. In India the almost fixed (approaching
100 percent) haplotype frequency of α-thalassemia adds considerably to the benign
picture of SCD (16).
Hb F is restricted to a subset of red cells,
called F-cells, whose numbers are determined
genetically, although exactly how is unknown.
There are likely to be genetic determinants
of Hb F level not linked to the β-globin gene
cluster that influence Hb F concentrations
in sickle cell anemia. The Hb F level in sickle
cell anemia is set by the number of F-cells, the
amount of Hb F per F-cell, and the differential survival of F-cells and non-F-cells (17).
Family studies have shown that this considerable variation is inherited, but the number of
genes involved and the mode of inheritance
are largely unknown. Identical-twin studies
showed that the heritability of F-cell numbers
is very high and that gender, age, and the -158
T-to-C mutation 5' to the Gγ-globin gene
account for close to 40 percent of the variance.
Other trans-acting autosomal loci, termed
quantitative trait loci (QTL), also appear to
influence the amounts of Hb F in F-cells (18).
Two such QTLs have been mapped by linkage
analysis, one to chromosome 6q23 (19).
Genetic studies originally localized this QTL
to a region approximately 4 Mb or 11 cM
between markers D6S408 and D6S292. More
recently, novel polymorphic markers plus
existing markers have further localized the
QTL within an interval of 0.8-1 Mb between
D6S270 and D61626 (20). Further analysis
suggests an additional QTL on chromosome 8q
(20). It is clear that further QTLs affecting the
expression of Hb F will be found in the future.
The second possible F-cell production locus
(FCP) is X-chromosome-linked and has been
localized between DXS143 and DXS16 within
the short arm of chromosome X (Xp22.322.20) (21). The FCP locus may account,
in part, for the higher Hb F levels in females
compared to males, an observation found in
both the normal population and in patients
with sickle cell anemia. More recent multipoint linkage analysis with seven polymorphic
markers has further localized the FCP within
2 to 3 cM between DXS452 and APXL, with
a maximum LOD score of 3.3.
α-thalassemia in individuals of African descent
is usually a result of the deletion of one or
two α-globin genes. Missing even two of the
normal complement of four α-globin genes is
not clinically significant in normal individuals.
About a third of African Americans carry an
α-globin gene deletion, and this prevalence
is even higher in some populations, so αthalassemia and sickle cell anemia frequently
coexist (22).
The hematological and clinical consequences
of interactions between these two disorders
have been studied intensively. The presence
of α-thalassemia with sickle cell anemia is
associated with less hemolysis, higher hemoglobin concentration, lower mean corpuscular
volume (MCV), and lower reticulocyte count,
when compared to individuals with normal
α-globin gene numbers. α-thalassemia does
not appear to modify the effect of haplotype
on Hb F levels in sickle cell anemia despite an
early report to the contrary, but it can further
ameliorate the disease. Therefore, it is unlikely
that any clinical benefit α-thalassemia confers
upon sickle cell anemia is mediated through
its effect on Hb F level.
α-thalassemia has a strong effect upon the
phenotype of sickle cell anemia by reducing
the erythrocyte Hb S concentration. Hb S
polymerization depends on hemoglobin
concentration, so concurrent α-thalassemia
should diminish the polymerization potential
Chapter 28: Genetic Modulation of Phenotype by Epistatic Genes
of sickle hemoglobin in sickle cell anemia.
When these conditions coexist, there is less
hemolysis, and anemia is less severe. Clinically,
the copresence of α-thalassemia and sickle cell
anemia is a paradoxical outcome. Vaso-occlusive events appear undiminished in SCD with
α-thalassemia, and in some studies, even
appeared to be increased. Fewer dense and
poorly deformable cells as a result of α-thalassemia raise the packed cell volume (PCV),
and because the cells contain Hb S, blood
viscosity is increased. Raising the number of
sickle cells, as occurs with α-thalassemia, might
promote vaso-occlusion since younger sickle
cells are more adherent (a critical phenomenon in painful episodes) (23). On the other
hand, a higher PCV may have beneficial
effects in some organs, so that skin ulcers
of the leg, childhood stroke, and retinal
vascular disease may be less common in
carriers of α-thalassemia and sickle cell anemia. The effect of α-thalassemia on cellular,
hematological, and clinical aspects of sickle
cell anemia have been reviewed recently (22).
Some but not all studies suggest that the
combination of α-thalassemia and sickle cell
anemia may increase survival (24). A recent
followup study of the age-dependency of
α-globin gene frequency is compatible with
the following interpretation: as medical care
improves, the advantage of α-thalassemia on
survival disappears, a phenomenon that could
explain the contradiction in the available data.
Some studies have examined how α-thalassemia
interacts with different β-globin gene haplotypes to modify the hematological and clinical
picture of sickle cell anemia (12,25,26). Most
often there is little interaction besides minor
reductions in MCV and reticulocyte count and
increases in PCV. One exception was a study
of two western Indian populations with high
Hb F levels in which the coexistence of α-thalassemia was associated with milder disease (16).
Hb A2, the tetramer of α- and δ-globin
chains, impairs the polymerization of Hb S
to the same extent as the γ-globin chain of
Hb F. When Hb A2 and Hb F levels are high,
the combination of these two hemoglobins
may potentially modulate SCD and cause
a mild phenotype.
Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G-6PD) deficiency is common in sickle cell anemia. In a study of 800 males over age 2 with
SCD, G-6-PD deficiency was not associated
with differential survival, reduced hemoglobin
levels, increased hemolysis, more pain episodes,
septic episodes, or a higher incidence of acute
anemia episodes (27,28). It now seems clear
that there is little, if any, modulation of the
phenotype of sickle cell anemia by coincident
G-6-PD deficiency, particularly in males
where the expression of this X-linked trait
is most apparent.
Some have postulated that thrombosis and
hemostasis could play roles in the pathophysiology of SCD. Coincidental mutations that
favor blood coagulation or thrombosis could
influence disease phenotype (29), particularly
the occurance of SCD-related stroke.
Recent studies attempting to relate the presence of mutations in genes for factor V,
platelet glycoprotein IIIa, and 5,10 methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) to
the pathogenesis of specific complications of
SCD have had disparate results. In one report,
a C→T mutation at position 677 of the
MTHFR gene that is associated with enzyme
thermolability and a putative hypercoagulabile
state due to hyperhomocystenemia was found
in 36 percent of 45 adults with SCD and
osteonecrosis but in only 13 percent of 62
SCD patients without osteonecrosis—a significant difference (30). However, smaller studies
reported that the same mutation was not associated with vascular complications of SCD,
including osteonecrosis and stroke (31-33).
Studies of the platelet glycoprotein IIIa gene
have not found a link between a C→T mutation at position 1565 (which is associated
with premature coronary artery disease) and
osteonecrosis. Factor V Leiden, a common
cause of thrombosis in Caucasians, is rare in
African Americans; limited studies have not
linked this mutation to stroke in SCD.
High levels of antiphospholipid antibodies
were found in patients with SCD and individuals with sickle cell trait (33), but no relationship to disease complications was noted.
Clearly, further work is needed to resolve
the role of genetic risk factors for thrombosis,
many of which have been examined only
in pilot studies or reported in abstract.
The potential genetic contribution to stroke
risk in SCD can be estimated from clinical
stroke risk observed in sibling pairs with SCD.
In 210 pairs among 2,353 patients with SCD,
167 pairs had no history of stroke, 33 pairs
had a stroke in one sib, and 10 pairs had history of stroke in both sibs (34).
A case-control candidate gene association study
involving patients with SCD and ischemic
stroke suggested an association with ischemic
stroke and angiotensinogen repeat alleles
3 and 4 (p<0.05) and plasminogen activator
inhibitor (PAI-I) 4/4 alleles (p<0.01) (35).
As with other diseases, the sickle cell diseases
are variable in their presentation due to differences in the genetic makeup and the environmental exposure of the affected individual.
Although the exact genes have yet to be identified, extensive advances in understanding the
pathophysiology of SCD suggest that genes
involved in numerous mechanisms might have
epistatic potential in SCD. These include:
1. Genes involved in the adhesion of young
sickle cells to the vascular endothelium
(e.g., genes related to integrin and other
adhesive molecules).
2. Genes that affect the density of sickle cells,
including transporter genes such as those
involved in Ca-dependent K efflux, K:Cl
cotransport, Na/H exchange.
3. Genes involved in thrombosis,
particularly in sickle cell stroke.
4. Genes involved in angiogenesis,
particularly in sickle cell retinopathy.
5. Genes involved in hemopoiesis,
particularly marrow response to anemia.
6. Genes involved in vascular reactivity,
particularly genes involved in the effects
of endothelin and NO.
Chapter 28: Genetic Modulation of Phenotype by Epistatic Genes
Eventually, researchers may develop a reliable
method of predicting severity of disease. This
would allow better grounds for decisions
pertaining to termination of pregnancy in
the context of prenatal diagnosis and the
establishment of risk/benefit ratios when
contemplating bone marrow transplantation,
chemotherapeutic manipulation of Hb F
level, and even gene therapy, all of which
have potentially serious complications.
Ferrone F, Nagel, RL. Polymer structure and polymerization of deoxyhemoglobin S. In: Steinberg
MH, Forget BG, Higgs DR, et al., eds. Disorders
of Hemoglobin: Genetics, Pathophysiology, Clinical
Management. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge
University Press, 2001.
Nagel RL. Severity, pathobiology, epistatic effects,
and genetic markers in sickle cell anemia. Semin
Hematol 1991;28:180-201.
Nagel RL, Platt O. Pathophysiology of sickle cell
anemia. In: Steinberg MH, Forget BG, Higgs
DR, et al., eds. Disorders of Hemoglobin: Genetics,
Pathophysiology, Clinical Management. Cambridge,
UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
Noguchi CT, Rodgers GP, Serjeant G, et al. Levels
of fetal hemoglobin necessary for treatment of sickle cell disease. N Engl J Med 1988;318:96-9.
Powars DR, Weiss JN, Chan LS, et al. Is there
a threshold level of fetal hemoglobin that ameliorates morbidity in sickle cell anemia? Blood
Platt OS, Brambilla DJ, Rosse WF, et al. Mortality
in sickle cell disease. Life expectancy and risk factors
for early death. N Engl J Med 1994;330:1639-44.
Weiss M, Blobel G. Nuclear factors that regulate
erythropoiesis. In: Steinberg MH, Forget BG,
Higgs DR, et al., eds. Disorders of Hemoglobin:
Genetics, Pathophysiology, Clinical Management.
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
Nagel RL, Steinberg MH. Genetics of the βs gene:
Origins, genetic epidemiology, and epistasis in
sickle cell anemia. In: Steinberg MH, Forget BG,
Higgs DR, et al., eds. Disorders of Hemoglobin:
Genetics, Pathophysiology, Clinical Management.
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
Gilman JG, Huisman TH. DNA sequence
variation associated with elevated fetal Gγ globin
production. Blood 1985;66:783-7.
Nagel RL, Fabry ME, Pagnier J, et al.
Hematologically and genetically distinct forms of
sickle cell anemia in Africa. The Senegal type and
the Benin type. N Engl J Med 1984;312:880-4.
Labie D, Srinivas R, Dunda O, et al. Haplotypes
in tribal Indians bearing the sickle gene: evidence
for the unicentric origin of the beta S mutation
and the unicentric origin of the tribal populations
of India. Hum Biol 1989;61:479-91.
Steinberg MH, Hsu H, Nagel RL, et al. Gender
and haplotype effects upon hematological manifestations of adult sickle cell anemia. Am J Hematol
Powars DR. Sickle cell anemia: βS-gene-cluster
haplotypes as prognostic indicators of vital organ
failure. Semin Hematol 1991;28:202-8.
Powars DR. βS-gene-cluster haplotypes in sickle
cell anemia. Clinical and hematologic features.
Hematol Oncol Clin N Am 1991;5:475-93.
Powars DR, Elliott-Mills DD, Chan L. Chronic
renal failure in sickle cell disease: risk factors,
clinical course, and mortality. Ann Intern Med
Mukherjee MB, Lu CY, Ducrocq R, et al. Effect
of α-thalassemia on sickle-cell anemia linked to
the Arab-Indian haplotype in India. Am J Hematol
Dover GJ, Boyer SH, Charache S, et al.
Individual variation in the production
and survival of F cells in sickle-cell disease.
N Engl J Med 1978;299:1428-35.
Garner C, Tatu T, Reittie JE, et al. Genetic influences on F cells and other hematologic variables: A
twin heritability study. Blood 2000;95:342-6.
Game L, Close J, Stephens P, et al. An integrated
map of human 6q22.3-q24 including a 3-Mb highresolution BAC/PAC contig encompassing a QTL
for fetal hemoglobin. Genomics 2000;64:264-76.
Tang W, Smith K, Dover G. The F-cell production
locus is mapped between DXS 452 and APXL, and
interval of 2-3 cM on Xp22.2. Abstract. The 12th
Conference on Hemoglobin Switching. 2000.
Dover GJ, Smith KD, Chang YC, et al. Fetal
hemoglobin levels in sickle cell disease and normal
individuals are partially controlled by an X-linked
gene located at Xp22.2. Blood 1992;80:816-24.
22. Steinberg MH. Compound heterozygous and other
sickle hemoglobinopathies. In: Steinberg MH,
Forget BG, Higgs DR, et al., eds. Disorders of
Hemoglobin: Genetics, Pathophysiology, Clinical
Management. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge
University Press, 2001.
23. Adekile AD, Tuli M, Haider MZ, et al. Influence
of α-thalassemia trait on spleen function in sickle
cell anemia patients with high Hb F. Am J Hematol
24. Mears JG, Lachman HM, Labie D, et al. α-thalassemia is related to prolonged survival in sickle
cell anemia. Blood 1983;62:286-90.
25. Rieder RF, Safaya S, Gillette P, et al. Effect of βglobin gene cluster haplotype on the hematological
and clinical features of sickle cell anemia. Am J
Hematol 1991;36:184-9.
26. Steinberg MH, Embury SH. α-thalassemia
in blacks: genetic and clinical aspects and interactions with the sickle hemoglobin gene. Blood
27. Steinberg MH, West MS, Gallagher D, et al.
Effects of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase
deficiency upon sickle cell anemia. Blood
28. Bouanga JC, Mouélé R, Préhu C, et al. Glucose6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency and
homozygous sickle cell disease in Congo. Hum
Hered 1998;48:192-7.
29. Francis JR, Hebbel RP. Hemostasis. In: Embury
SH, Hebbel RP, Mohandas N, et al., eds. Sickle
Cell Disease: Basic Principles and Clinical Practice.
New York: Lippincott-Raven, 1994:299-310.
30. Kutlar A, Kutlar F, Turker I, et al. The methlylene
tetrathydrofolate reductase (C677T) mutation as
a potential risk factor for avascular necrosis (AVN)
in sickle cell disease. Hemoglobin 2001:25:213-7.
31. Zimmerman SA, Ware RE. Inherited DNA mutations contributing to thrombotic complications in
patients with sickle cell disease. Am J Hematol
32. Andrade FL, Annichino-Bizzacchi JM, Saad STO,
et al. Prothrombin mutant, factor V Leiden, and
thermolabile variant of methylenetetrahydrofolate
reductase among patients with sickle cell disease
in Brazil. Am J Hematol 1998;59:46-50.
33. Nsiri B, Ghazouani E, Gritli N, et al. Antiphospholipid antibodies: lupus anticoagulants, anticardiolipin and antiphospholipid isotypes in patients
with sickle cell disease. Hematol Cell Ther
34. Driscoll MC, Hurlet A, Berman B, et al. Stroke
risk in sibling pairs with sickle cell disease. Am J
Hum Genet 1999;65:A201.
35. Tang DC, Prauner R, Liu W, et al. The
angiotensinogen GT dinucleotide repeat is
associated with stroke in children with sickle
cell anemia. Abstract. National Sickle Cell
Disease Center Meeting. 1999.
Many of the observational studies and therapeutic trials that have contributed to the
understanding of syndromes associated with
sickle cell disease (SCD) have been federally
funded. This chapter highlights some of the
research funded by the National Heart, Lung,
and Blood Institute (NHLBI) that has led to
a clearer understanding of the clinical course
of SCD and appropriate interventions to
reduce morbidity. Specifically, it describes
a large multi-year observational study, known
as the Cooperative Study of Sickle Cell
Disease (CSSCD), as well as several interventional clinical trials. The discussions are not
inclusive but rather highlight successful efforts
in the study and treatment of the disorder.
The CSSCD, started in 1979 after years
of planning, was a large multi-institutional
prospective study of the clinical course of
SCD (1). The recruitment goals included individuals with major phenotypes of sickle cell
disease (SCD-SS, SCD-SC, and SCD-S β+/o
thalassemia); 3,200 subjects, with an SCD-SS
sample of 2100; individuals from different
geographic areas (including rural areas); and
inclusion of individuals at all stages of life
(including newborns and pregnant women).
The CSSCD completed its third phase in
1999; it followed the newborn cohort of 694
children who were identified through screening programs. The CSSCD has identified the
risk factors responsible for the increased morbidity and early mortality of SCD (table 1).
Below are just a few of the findings from the
CSSCD studies, which have resulted in 39
papers (1-39).
The CSSCD described reference values and
hematologic changes from birth to 5 years
of age (2). Anemia was observed by 10 weeks
of age in infants with SCD-SS and was associated with a rising reticulocyte count, exceeding
12 percent by 5 years of age. The fetal hemoglobin (Hb F) concentration in SCD-SS infants
declined more gradually than did that of infants
with SCD-SC. Infants with SCD-SS had evidence of abnormal splenic function after 6
months of age, and by 1 year, 28 percent of
SCD-SS infants had evidence of poor splenic
function. By the time the children had reached
3 years of age, this percentage had increased to
78 percent for SCD-SS children and 32 percent
for those with SCD-SC. Children with SCDSC were mildly affected, and displayed mild
anemia (10.5 g/dL), slightly elevated mean
reticulocyte counts (3 percent), and fetal hemoglobin levels (3 percent) during early childhood.
One of the major accomplishments of the
CSSCD was an analysis of the epidemiology
of pain episodes (3). The natural history of
3,578 individuals ranging in age from newborns to 66 years was evaluated. The average
pain rate was 0.8 episode per person-year in
Chapter 29: Highlights From Federally Funded Studies
Table 1. Risk Factors for Major Organ Dysfunction or Event (Results from the CSSCD)
Condition (Reference)
Associated Risk Factors*
Painful events (3)
↓ Hb F
↑ hematocrit (Hct)
Premature death (3)
↑ painful event rate
Leg ulcers (4)
↓ Hb F concentration
Splenic sequestration (12)
↓ Hb F concentration
Osteonecrosis, femoral head (13)
↑ painful episodes
↑ Hct
↓ mean cell volume (MCV)
Infarctive stroke (17)
acute chest syndrome
prior transient ischemic attack (TIA)
↓ Hb concentration
↑ systolic blood pressure
Hemorrhagic stroke (17)
↓ Hb concentration
↑ white blood cell count (WBC)
Silent infarct (18)
↓ Hb concentration
↓ splenic function
Senegal globin haplotype
Acute chest syndrome (19)
↓ Hb concentration
↓ Hb F concentraion
↑ steady state WBC
Sickle cardiomyopathy (21)
↓ Hb concentration
↑ age
* ↓=decreased, ↑=increased
sickle cell anemia (SCD-SS), 1.0 episode
per person-year in SCD-S βo-thalassemia,
and 0.4 episode per person-year in SCD-SC
β+-thalassemia and SCD-SS β+-thalassemia.
The rates varied widely within each of these
four groups. Thirty-nine percent of persons
with sickle cell anemia had no episodes of
pain, and 1 percent had more than six episodes
per year. The 5.2 percent of persons with 3
to 10 episodes per year had 32.9 percent of
all episodes. Among persons over the age
of 20, those with high pain rates tended to
die earlier than did those with low pain rates.
High pain rates were associated with high
hematocrit and low Hb F levels, and α-thalassemia had no effect on pain rates apart
from its association with an increased hematocrit. The data indicated that the Hb F level
was predictive of the pain rate, prompting
attempts to increase Hb F levels with pharmacologic agents such as hydroxyurea.
Leg Ulcers
The incidence of leg ulcers was evaluated at
study entry in 2,075 persons 10 years and
older between 1979 and 1986 (4). Leg ulcers
were most prevalent in persons with SCD-SS
and SCD-SS α-thalassemia. Prevalence rates
per 100 persons were: SCD-SS (4-5 α genes)
= 4.97; SCD-SS (2-3 α genes) = 3.9; SCD-SS
unmapped = 1.5; SCD-S βo-thalassemia = 0.9.
Individuals with SCD-SC and SCD-S β+-thalassemia did not have leg ulcers at entry. The
incidence rates of leg ulceration among males
were significantly higher than among females
(15 versus 5 per 100 person-years). Persons
who had SCD-SS experienced a sharp increase
in incidence of leg ulcers after the second
decade of life. At any given total hemoglobin
concentration, rates were lower in individuals
with fetal hemoglobin (Hb F) levels greater than
5 percent.
Osteonecrosis of the Humeral Head
Osteonecrosis of the humeral head was determined in a study of 2,524 persons in the
CSSCD cohort (5). At entry, 5.6 percent had
radiologic evidence of osteonecrosis in one or
both shoulders. The highest age adjusted incidence rates were observed in SCD-SS persons
with concomitant α-thalassemia (4.9 per 100
person-years), followed by SCD-S βo-thalassemia (4.8 per 100 person-years), SCD-SS
without α-thalassemia (2.5 per 100 personyears), and SCD-SC (1.7 per 100 personyears). Most were asymptomatic, with 20.9
percent reporting pain or limited range of
motion at time of diagnosis.
In 1,814 persons with SCD who had been
transfused, the rate of alloimmunization to
erythrocyte antigens was 18.6 percent (6).
The rate of alloimmunization increased exponentially with increasing numbers of transfusions. However, the rate of alloimmunization
in persons whose first transfusion occurred
at less than 10 years of age was less than
expected based on the number of transfusions
An analysis of socioeconomic status of 3,538
African-American SCD persons enrolled in
the CSSCD revealed the following: there were
fewer two-parent families than in the total
United States black population (USBP) (40
percent versus 54 percent); twice as many
persons of both sexes with SCD worked in
white-collar positions; a higher percentage of
SCD persons were unemployed and disabled
(compared to the USBP); and men with
SCD patients had lower median incomes
than all black males in the United States (7).
The percentage of high school graduates was
similar (71 percent SCD versus 75 percent
USBP), and female heads of household
employed full time earned about the same
salary as USBP females.
Interventional trials grew partly from needs
and observations related to the CSSCD.
Examples of clinical trials funded by the
NHLBI are described below and are summarized in table 2.
Chapter 29: Highlights From Federally Funded Studies
The Prophylactic Penicillin Study (PROPS I),
one of the first multicenter clinical trials, was
initiated in 1983 to test the effectiveness of
prophylactic oral penicillin in the prevention
of severe pneumococcal infections in young
children under 3 years of age with SCD (8,9).
The multicenter randomized double-blind
placebo-controlled trial demonstrated an 84
percent reduction in the incidence of infection
in children who received oral penicillin twice
daily, compared to the placebo group. It indicated that all neonates should be screened
for sickle hemoglobinopathies, and those
with sickle cell anemia should be placed on
prophylactic penicillin by 4 months of age.
Penicillin Prophylaxis in Sickle Cell Disease
II (PROPS II) demonstrated that penicillin
prophylaxis can be stopped safely after age 5
because no significant benefit was found in comparing the placebo and penicillin groups (40).
Based on the findings that persons with poorer
prognoses often had lower fetal hemoglobins
(table 1), a multicenter safety and dosing
study of hydroxyurea was undertaken in adults
to determine responsiveness of fetal hemoglobin levels and toxicity (41). Forty-nine persons
were enrolled, and 32 of them were still
receiving therapy at the end of the study.
Eighteen persons were treated for 24 months
or longer, and 11 completed 16 weeks of
therapy at a maximally tolerated dose (MTD).
Hb F levels ranged from 1.9 percent to 26.3
percent, with the most significant predictors
of Hb F levels being last plasma hydroxyurea
level, initial white blood cell count, and initial
Hb F level. No serious toxicities were observed,
significant bone marrow depression was avoided, and chromosome abnormalities after 2
years of treatment were no greater than those
observed before treatment. Hemoglobin
concentrations increased, as did body weight.
There was a suggestion of clinical benefit,
although the study was uncontrolled and
open-label and therefore was not designed
to test therapeutic efficacy. This study was
followed by the Multicenter Study of
Hydroxyurea in Sickle Cell Anemia (MSH
Trial), the first randomized double-blind trial
to test the efficacy of an agent in decreasing
the rate of painful events.
The randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled MSH Trial conducted at 21 clinic centers (42,43) found that hydroxyurea decreased
painful sickle cell episodes or crises, hospitalizations for painful episodes, acute chest syndrome, and total number of units of blood
transfused by approximately 50 percent. In
1998, as a result of this trial, hydroxyurea
became the first agent to be approved by the
Food and Drug Administration for the prevention of painful episodes in adults with
sickle cell anemia.
A contract to follow the MSH patient cohort,
a phase IV study, began in February 1996.
Only persons involved in the MSH Trial
were recruited for this study, and they are
being followed for long-term morbidity
and mortality in association with long-term
hydroxyurea usage.
Ancillary studies in the MSH Trial have
explored factors responsible for genetic modulation of γ-globin gene expression (44) and
effects of hydroxyurea administration on body
weight and exercise performance (45). An
analysis of the cost-effectiveness of hydroxyurea
has shown that individuals with SCD who
received the drug had an average yearly lower
cost of health care than did those originally
randomized to receive placebo (46). Other
areas being explored by the MSH investigators include effects of hydroxyurea usage on
quality of life and the effect of hydroxyurea
on analgesia use.
Children between the ages of 5 and 15 years
with sickle cell anemia were entered into a
multicenter safety and dosing study of hydroxyurea in 1994 (47). A total of 84 children
were enrolled, 68 reached MTD, and 52 were
treated at MTD for 1 year. This study demonstrated significant increases in hemoglobin
concentration, Hb F levels, and decreases
in white blood cell, neutrophil, platelet, and
reticulocyte counts. Laboratory toxicities were
transient and were reversible with cessation of
hydroxyurea, as had been seen in adults. This
study set the stage for the design of phase III
trials of hydroxyurea in even younger children
to determine whether hydroxyurea can prevent
chronic end-organ damage.
Perioperative transfusions are used frequently
to prevent morbidity in patients with sickle cell
anemia. A prospective multicenter study that
ran from 1988 to 1993 randomly assigned 692
patients to receive either exchange transfusions
to decrease their Hb S levels below 30 percent
or simple transfusions to increase their hemoglobin levels to 10 g/dL (48). The conservative
transfusion regimen was as effective as exchange
transfusion in preventing perioperative complications, and the conservative regimen was
associated with a much lower rate of transfusion-associated complications. In addition to
decreasing morbidity for patients undergoing
surgical procedures, simple transfusions
are associated with significant cost savings.
Stroke is the second leading cause of death
in children with SCD. In the STOP trial, an
investigator-initiated multicentered trial funded by the NHLBI, children between the ages
of 2 and 16 who were at risk for first-time
stroke, as determined by having transcranial
Doppler velocity greater than 200 cm/sec,
were randomized to receive either periodic
transfusions to maintain the Hb S level below
30 percent or standard supportive care (49).
An interim analysis demonstrated that periodic transfusions were efficacious in preventing
first-time stroke in the children randomized
to the transfusion arm. At the end of the trial,
all participants were offered periodic transfusion therapy. The main side effects of the
transfusion therapy were iron accumulation
and alloimmunization, although the rate of
occurrence was low. A new trial, known as
STOP II, is now in place to determine whether
transfusions need to be continued indefinitely
or if they can be stopped after some period of
time when risk of stroke has diminished.
The trials discussed are examples of only some
of the major clinical efforts in SCD research.
The NHLBI funds 10 Comprehensive Sickle
Cell Centers, whose mission is to perform
basic research in SCD, conduct clinical studies,
and provide community outreach and education.
It also supports a variety of other endeavors.
Chapter 29: Highlights From Federally Funded Studies
Table 2. NHLBI-Sponsored Clinical Trials in Sickle Cell Disease
Therapy Tested (Type of Trial)
Outcome (Reference)
Prophylactic penicillin in infants
(Phase III)
Pneumococcal sepsis prevented
in infants (8)
Prophylactic penicillin in children
(Phase III)
Penicillin prophylaxis can be safely
stopped at age 5 (40)
Phase II Trial
Hydroxyurea in adults
(Phase II)
Hydroxyurea can be safely given to
adults with SCD-SS (41)
MSH Trial
Hydroxyurea in adults with
severe sickle cell anemia
(Phase III)
Hydroxyurea lowered rate of painful
events, blood transfusions, acute
chest syndrome, and hospitalizations
by 50 percent (42,43)
Hydroxyurea in children
(Phase II)
Hydroxyurea can be safely given
to children between the ages of 5
and 15 (47)
Transfusion Trial
Simple blood transfusions to raise the
total Hb level to 10 g/dL regardless of Hb S
concentration, compared to aggressive
blood transfusions to suppress Hb S level
to below 30 percent at time of surgery
in children and adults
(Phase III)
Simple blood transfusions can be safely
given during the perioperative period
to raise Hb concentration to 10 g/dL (48)
STOP Trial
Blood transfusions to prevent stroke
in children
(Phase III)
First-time stroke can be prevented
in children found to be at risk by periodic
blood transfusions to suppress Hb S
concentraion to less than 30 percent (49)
Gaston MH, Rosse WF. The cooperative study
of sickle cell disease: review of study design and
objectives. Am J Pediatric Hematol/Oncol
Brown AK, Sleeper LA, Miller ST, et al. Reference
values and hematologic changes from birth to
five years in patients with sickle cell disease. The
Cooperative Study of Sickle Cell Disease. Arch
Ped and Adolesc Med 1994;148:1156-62.
Platt O, Thorington BD, Brambilla DJ, et al. Pain
in sickle cell disease: rates and risk factors. N Engl
J Med 1991;325:11-6.
Koshy M, Entsuah R, Koranda A, et al. Leg
ulcers in patients with sickle cell disease. Blood
Milner PF, Kraus AP, Sebes JI, et al. Osteonecrosis
of the humeral head in sickle cell disease. Clinical
Orthop 1993;289:136-43.
Rosse WF, Gallagher D, Kinney TR, et al.
Transfusion and alloimmunization in sickle
cell disease. The Cooperative Study of Sickle
Cell Disease. Blood 1990;76:1431-7.
Farber MD, Koshy M, Kinney TR, et al.
Cooperative Study of Sickle Cell Disease:
demographic and socioeconomic characteristics
of patients and families with sickle cell disease.
J Chron Dis 1985;38:495-505.
Gaston MH, Verter JI, Woods G, et al. Prophylaxis
with oral penicillin in children with sickle cell
anemia. A randomized trial. N Engl J Med
Gaston M, Verter J. Sickle cell anemia trial.
Statistics Med 1990;9:45-51.
Gaston M, Smith J, Gallagher D, et al.
Recruitment in the Cooperative Study of Sickle
Cell Disease (CSSCD). Controlled Clin Trials
1987;8(4 Suppl):131S-40S.
West MS, Wethers D, Smith J, et al. Laboratory
profile of sickle cell disease: a cross-sectional analysis. The Cooperative Study of Sickle Cell Disease.
J Clin Epidemiol 1992;45:893-909.
Pearson HA, Gallagher MS, Chilcote R, et al.
Developmental pattern of splenic dysfunction
in sickle cell disorders. Pediatrics 1985;76:392-7.
Milner PF, Kraus AP, Sebes JI, et al. Sickle cell
disease as a cause of osteonecrosis of the femoral
head. N Engl J Med 1991;325:1476-81.
Wang WC, Grover R, Gallagher D, et al.
Developmental screening in young children with
sickle cell disease. Results of a cooperative study.
Am J Pediatr Hematol Oncology 1993;15:87-91.
15. Armstrong FD, Thompson RJ Jr, Wang W, et al.
Cognitive functioning and brain magnetic resonance imaging in children with sickle cell disease.
Neuropsychology Committee of the Cooperative
Study of Sickle Cell Disease. Pediatrics
16. Moser FG, Miller ST, Bello JA, et al. The spectrum
of brain MR abnormalities in sickle cell disease:
a report from the Cooperative Study of Sickle Cell
Disease. Amer J Neuroradiol 1996;17:965-72.
17. Ohene-Frempong F, Weiner SJ, Sleeper LA, et al.
Cerebrovascular accidents in sickle cell disease:
rates and risk factors. Blood 1998;91:288-94.
18. Kinney TR, Sleeper LA, Wang WC, et al. Silent
cerebral infarcts in sickle cell anemia: a risk factor
analysis. The Cooperative Study of Sickle Cell
Disease. Pediatrics 1999;103:640-5.
19. Castro O, Brambilla DJ, Thorington B, et al.
The acute chest syndrome in sickle cell disease:
Incidence and risk factors. The Cooperative Study
of Sickle Cell Disease. Blood 1994;84:643-9.
20. Vichinsky EP, Styles LA, Colangelo LH, et al.
Acute chest syndrome in sickle cell disease: clinical
presentation and course. The Cooperative Study of
Sickle Cell Disease. Blood 1997;89:1787-92.
21. Covitz W, Espeland M, Gallagher D, et al.
The heart in sickle cell anemia. The Cooperative
Study of Sickle Cell Disease (CSSCD). Chest
22. Platt OS, Rosenstock W, Espeland MA. Influence
of sickle hemoglobinopathies on growth and development. N Engl J Med 1984;311:7-12.
23. Espeland MA, Gallagher D, Tell GS, et al.
Reliability of tanner stage assessments in a multicenter study. Amer J Human Biol 1990;2:503-10.
24. Zarkowsky HS, Gallagher D, Gill FM, et al.
Bacteremia in sickle hemoglobinopathies. J Pediatr
25. Gill FM, Brown A, Gallagher D, et al. Newborn
experience in the Cooperative Study of Sickle Cell
Disease. Pediatrics 1989;83:827-9.
26. Gill FM, Sleeper LA, Weiner SJ, et al. Clinical
events in the first decade in a cohort of infants
with sickle cell disease. The Cooperative Study
of Sickle Cell Disease. Blood 1995;86:776-83.
27. Brown AK, Sleeper LA, Pegelow CH, et al. The
influence of infant and maternal sickle cell disease
on birth outcome and neonatal course. Arch Ped
Adolesc Med 1994;148:1156-62.
28. Leikin SL, Gallagher D, Kinney, TR, et al.
Mortality in children and adolescents with
sickle cell disease. The Cooperative Study of
Sickle Cell Disease. Pediatrics 1989;84:500-8.
Chapter 29: Highlights From Federally Funded Studies
29. Miller ST, Sleeper LA, Pegelow CH, et al.
Prediction of adverse outcomes in children with
sickle cell disease. N Engl J Med 2000;342:83-9.
30. Koshy M, Weiner SJ, Miller ST, et al. Surgery
and anesthesia in sickle cell disease. The
Cooperative Study of Sickle Cell Disease.
Blood 1995;86:3676-84.
31. Smith JA, Espeland M, Bellevue R, et al.
Pregnancy in sickle cell disease: experience of
the Cooperative Study of Sickle Cell Disease.
Obstetr Gynecol 1996;87:199-204.
32. Pegelow CH, Colangelo L, Steinberg M, et al.
Natural history of blood pressure in sickle cell
disease: risks for stroke and death associated
with relative hypertension in sickle cell anemia.
Am J Med 1997;102:171-7.
33. Platt O, Brambilla DJ, Rosse WF, et al. Mortality
in sickle cell disease. Life expectancy and risk factors
for early death. N Engl J Med 1994;330:1639-44.
34. Steinberg MH, Rosenstock W, Coleman MB, et al.
Effects of thalassemia and microcytosis on the
hematologic and vaso-occlusive severity of sickle
cell anemia. Blood 1984;63:1353-60.
35. Embury SH, Gholson MA, Gillette P, et al. The
leftward deletion α-thal-2 haplotype in a black subject with hemoglobin SS. Blood 1985;65:769-71.
36. Espeland M. Estimation of growth curves from
longitudinal data collected at irregular time intervals. Comput Biomed Res 1986;19:575-87.
37. Steinberg MH, West MS, Gallagher D, et al.
Effects of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase
deficiency upon sickle cell disease. Blood
38. Espeland MA, Platt OS, Gallagher D. Joint estimation of incidence and diagnostic error rates from
irregular longitudinal data. J Am Stat Assoc 1989;
39. Espeland M, Rushing JT, DeVault A. Estimating
incidence and diagnostic error rates for bivariate
progressive processes. Biometrics 1993;49:1010-21.
40. Falletta JM, Woods GM, Verter JI, et al. Discontinuing penicillin prophylaxis in children with
sickle cell anemia. Prophylactic Penicillin Study II.
J Pediatr 1995;127:685-90.
41. Charache S, Dover GJ, Moore RD, et al.
Hydroxyurea: effects on hemoglobin F
production in patients with sickle cell anemia.
Blood 1992;79:2555-65.
42. Charache S, Terrin ML, Moore RD, et al. Effect
of hydroxyurea on the frequency of painful
crises in sickle cell anemia. N Engl J Med
43. Charache S, Barton FB, Moore RD, et al.
Hydroxyurea and sickle cell anemia. Clinical utility
of a myelosuppressive “switching” agent. The
Multicenter Study of Hydroxyurea in Sickle Cell
Anemia. Medicine 1996;75:300-25.
44. Lu ZH, Steinberg MH. Fetal hemoglobin in
sickle cell anemia: relation to regulatory sequences
cis to the β-globin gene. Multicenter Study of
Hydroxyurea. Blood 1996;87:1604-11.
45. Hackney AC, Hezier W, Gulledge TP, et al. Effects
of hydroxyurea administration on the body-weight,
body composition, and exercise performance
of patients with sickle cell anaemia. Clin Sci (Lond)
46. Moore RD, Charache S, Terrin ML, et al. Cost
effectiveness of hydroxyurea in sickle cell anemia.
Am J Hematol 2000;64:26-31.
47. Kinney TR, Helms RW, O’Branski EE, et al. Safety
of hydroxyurea in children with sickle cell anemia:
results of the HUG-KIDS study, a phase I/II trial.
Blood 1999;94:1550-4.
48. Vichinsky EP, Haberkern CM, Neumayr L, et al.
A comparison of conservative and aggressive transfusion regimens in the perioperative management
of sickle cell disease. N Engl J Med 1995;333:206-13.
49. Adams RJ, McKie VC, Hsu L, et al. Prevention of
a first stroke by transfusions in children with sickle
cell anemia and abnormal results on transcranial
Doppler ultrasonography. N Engl J Med
For more information contact:
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Bethesda, MD 20824-0105
Phone: (301) 592-8573
Fax: (301) 592-8563
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Web: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov
DISCRIMINATION PROHIBITED: Under provisions of applicable public laws enacted by Congress since 1964,
no person in the United States shall, on the grounds of race, color, national origin, handicap, or age, be excluded from
participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity (or, on the basis
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Order 11141 prohibits discrimination on the basis of age by contractors and subcontractors in the performance of Federal
contracts, and Executive Order 11246 States that no federally funded contractor may discriminate against any employee or
applicant for employment because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Therefore, the National Heart, Lung, and
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Public Health Service
National Institutes of Health
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
NIH Publication No. 02-2117
Originally Printed 1984
Previously Revised 1989, 1995
Reprinted June 1999
Revised June 2002 (Fourth Edition)

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