Sickle cell anemia is a disease of red blood cells. It is caused by an autosomal recessive single gene defect in the beta chain of hemoglobin, which results in production of sickle cell hemoglobin (HbS).
Sickle cells can obstruct blood flow and break down prematurely, and are associated with varying degrees of anemia.
Obstruction of small blood capillaries can cause painful crises, damage to major organs, and increased vulnerability to severe infections.
Associated with lifelong morbidity and reduced life expectancy.
All infants are screened, with findings confirmed by hemoglobin electrophoresis, complete blood count, reticulocyte count, and peripheral blood smear.
Treatment goals include symptom control (including pain management), and prevention and management of complications.
Sickle cell anemia is caused by an autosomal recessive single gene defect in the beta chain of hemoglobin, which results in production of sickle cell hemoglobin (HbS).
Other forms of sickle cell disease may occur if HbS is inherited from one parent and another abnormal hemoglobin, or beta thalassemia, is inherited from the other parent (e.g., HbSC or HbSB thalassemia).
Sickle cell disease is associated with varying degrees of anemia, red cell hemolysis, and obstruction of small blood capillaries causing painful crises, damage to major organs, and increased vulnerability to severe infections.
Sickle cell trait occurs if HbS is inherited from one parent and the normal HbA from the other.
History and exam
Sophie Lanzkron, MD, MHS
Sickle Cell Center for Adults
Associate Professor of Medicine and Oncology
Johns Hopkins Medicine
SL has been the site principal investigator on several industry-funded studies with the following companies: Pfizer, Selexys, AstraZeneca, and Prolong. SL is a site principal investigator for Global Blood Therapeutics, Novartis, Shire, Ironwood, Imara and Bluebird Bio. She is chair of the Adjudication Committee for Novo Nordisk and Bluebird Bio and is a consultant for Pfizer. SL is an author of more than one reference in this topic. SL’s institution has received grants from Pfizer, Ironwood, Global Blood Therapeutics, NIH, PCORI and HRSA for research. She has an interest in a trust holding stocks in Pfizer and Teva.
Dr Sophie Lanzkron would like to gratefully acknowledge Dr Channing Paller, a previous contributor to this topic.
CP declares that she has no competing interests.
James Bradner, MD
Instructor in Medicine
Division of Hematologic Neoplasia
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
JB declares that he has no competing interests.
Adrian Stephens, MB BS, MD, FRCPath
University College London Hospitals
AS declares that he has no competing interests.
Position paper on International Collaboration for Transfusion Medicine (ICTM) Guideline: Red blood cell specifications for patients with hemoglobinopathies: a systematic review and guideline external link opens in a new windowMore guidelines
- More videos
Use of this content is subject to our disclaimer