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Clinical Challenges: Sickle Cell Management in the ED


The most common complication of sickle cell disease (SCD) is a vaso-occlusive crisis. The sudden nature of these crises, marked by intermittent, unexpected episodes of severe pain, leads most SCD patients to turn to the emergency department (ED) for care. In a 1997 study, for example, researchers found that 85.7% of hospital admissions for SCD came through the ED. And not much has changed since then.

A more recent study out of California found that out of a cohort of 4,636 patients with SCD, 88% had one or more treat-and-release visits to an ED during 2005 and 2014. And in 2005 alone, 35% of those patients had one to three treat-and-release visits, 9% had four to 10 visits, and 3% had >11 visits.