Too few children with sickle cell disease receive a stroke screen

NEW YORK — Too few American children with sickle cell disease are getting needed stroke screenings, according to a study released Tuesday.

The study found that less than half get tested and only about half or less receive treatment that helps relieve pain and anemia. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the study and called for more testing and treatment.

One type of sickle cell disease, called sickle cell disease, is the leading cause of stroke in children. The disease can shorten life expectancy by more than 20 years and lead to complications, said Dr. Karen Ramley of the CDC.

“These complications are preventable — not inevitable,” she said in a statement.

Sickle cell disease is a group of inherited diseases in which red blood cells – usually round – become hard, sticky and crescent-shaped. The deformed cells block the blood flow, which can lead to problems such as infections, pain and other complications. More than 90% of the approximately 100,000 Americans with sickle cell disease are black.

In 2019, 3,300 children with sickle cell anemia participated in the study. It found that 47% of children aged 2–9 and 38% of children aged 10–16 had an ultrasound to check blood flow and assess stroke risk. Blood transfusions can help people at high risk.

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

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