By: Laurie J. Sutor, MD, MBA Vice President of Medical and Technical Services
Patients with sickle cell disease have inherited two copies of an abnormal hemoglobin gene that causes their red blood cells to deform (“sickle”) in oxygen-poor conditions in the body. This defect causes painful crises and organ damage over the course of their lives. Transfusion is frequently used to provide normal hemoglobin that can carry oxygen to deprived organs and tissues.
Because sickle cell patients can require frequent transfusions, matching of blood type beyond the usual ABO and Rh(D) is often desired. This extended matching prevents red cell antibody formation in the patient and keeps it easier to find compatible units as time goes on. However, this practice requires special donors who are of similar ethnic and racial background to the patient. Since most sickle cell patients are African American, finding matched blood types means we need a lot of African American donors with similar blood types that do not have sickle cell disease.
Although individuals with sickle cell trait (the carrier state for one copy of the abnormal hemoglobin) can donate for the community blood supply, they are not usually used for transfusion to patients in sickle cell pain crisis and other serious sickle cell illnesses.
This is because sickle cell patients really need red cells with normal hemoglobin to recover from their episode of sickling. Persons with sickle cell trait are without symptoms, lead normal lives, and make good donors for many other types of patients.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, sickle cell disease affects more than 90,000 Americans and one out of every 500 African American births. Carter BloodCare needs your help! Schedule your appointment online or give us a call at 1-800-DONATE-4.