Sickle cell disease
Though the buildings are vast and imposing, and the caregivers numerous, our care is personal and unsurpassed in quality.
Matthew M. Heeney, MD, Director, Boston Children's Hospital Hematology Clinical Program
Normal blood cells are smooth, round, flexible and shaped like the letter O. However, if your child has sickle cell disease, his blood cells can become stiff, sticky and shaped like the letter C, causing a variety of problems.
Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder that occurs when a protein called hemoglobin is defective.
It’s estimated that more than 70,000 people in the United States have sickle cell disease.
All children born in the United States are screened for sickle cell disease. As a result, most children are diagnosed very early on.
The disease primarily affects children of African descent and Hispanics of Caribbean ancestry. It also occurs in children of Middle-Eastern and Indian descent.
Sickle cell disease affects hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body.
Sickle cell is inherited, passed from parent to child through a defective hemoglobin gene and is not contagious.
The symptoms and severity of the disease varies depending on the specific type of sickle cell disease.
Anemia is the most common symptom of all variations of sickle cell.
- Stem cell transplant may offer a cure for some patients.
How Children’s Hospital Boston approaches sickle cell disease
In our Sickle Cell Program, our expert hematologists diagnose and treat children and young adults with sickle cell disease of all types.
Our physicians and nurses work to maintain the well-being of more than 200 children affected by sickle cell disease—and their families—by focusing on health maintenance strategies, including:
- understanding how to recognize the early signs of complications
- teaching preventive therapies that help your child avoid symptoms
- screening for acute complications
Because sickle cell can affect nearly every major organ in the body, children in this program also receive treatment from other specialty programs at Children’s, on an as-needed basis.
In addition, through Dana-Farber/Children's Hospital Cancer Center, patients have access to one of the largest pediatric transplantation programs in the United States. Our program is actively pursuing protocols for transplantation of blood-related disorders, including sickle cell disease.
|Transitioning from pediatric to adult care|
|More than 9 million children in the United States are living with a chronic illness. Every year, 500,000 of these children turn 18. As they join their fellow adolescents in struggling to achieve optimal independence, they also face a serious issue they may not be prepared for: the transition of their medical care. Read Children’s tips for helping kids – and their families – make this key transition.|
Reviewed by Matthew Heeney, MD,
© Children’s Hospital Boston, 2011