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patient education

Sickle cell disease in pregnancy

key information

source: The ModernMedicine Network

year: 2014

authors: Andra H. James


Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a devastating abnormality of red blood cells (RBCs) that results in circulatory impairment, tissue damage, infarctions, severe anemia, and life-threatening infections. SCD affects between 70,000 and 100,000 Americans, mostly of African descent, with a minority of Hispanic, southern European, Middle Eastern, and Asian Indian descent. Today, SCD is most often discovered during routine newborn screening.

Although SCD is associated with major morbidity, more than 90% of children with SCD in the United States survive into adulthood. Compared to the general population, however, their lifespans are 2 or 3 decades shorter and limited by both acute and chronic morbidity.

Acute complications of SCD include ischemic, vaso-occlusive (pain) crises, acute chest syndrome (which most closely resembles pneumonia, but may also result from fat embolism from bone marrow, intrapulmonary aggregates of sickled cells, atelectasis, or pulmonary edema), stroke, splenic sequestration, acute renal failure, and cholecystitis. Chronic complications include chronic pain, cholelithiasis, renal dysfunction, hypertension, pulmonary hypertension, and retinal problems.

organization: Duke University, USA

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