Too few kids with sickle cell disease get stroke screening, treatment, CDC finds

Fewer than half of children in the United States with sickle cell disease get a needed screening for stroke, and only about half or fewer get a treatment that can help with pain and anemia.

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This colorized microscope image shows a sickle cell (left) and normal red blood cells of someone with sickle cell anemia.

This colorized microscope image shows a sickle cell (left) and normal red blood cells of someone with sickle cell anemia.

Janice Haney Carr/CDC/Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia via AP

Too few kids in the United States with sickle cell anemia get a needed screening for stroke, according to a new study by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study found that fewer than half get the screening and that only half or fewer get a treatment that can help with pain and anemia, according to the CDC, which is calling for more screening and treatment.

One type of sickle cell disease, called sickle cell anemia, is a leading cause of stroke among children. The disease can shorten life expectancy by more than 20 years and lead to complications.

“These complications are preventable — not inevitable,” Dr. Karen Remley of the CDC said.

Sickle cell disease is a group of inherited disorders in which red blood cells — normally round — become hard, sticky and crescent-shaped. The misshapen cells clog the flow of blood, which can lead to infections, pain and other complications. More than 90% of the estimated 100,000 Americans with sickle cell disease are Black.

The research involved 3,300 children with sickle cell anemia in 2019. It found that 47% of children 2 to 9 years old and 38% of those 10 to 16 were given an ultrasound scan to check blood flow and assess their risk for stroke. Blood transfusions can help those at high risk.

The study also found that 38% of the younger children and 53% of the older ones used hydroxyurea, a drug that can reduce periods of severe pain and other complications.

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