Sickle Cell Trait Complications are Overlooked in Healthcare

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Dr. Corinna Schultz talks about her latest data and the growing body of literature showing medical complications that can come with sickle cell trait.

The general awareness of complications related to sickle cell disease (SCD) have become more understood in healthcare, but those associated with sickle cell trait (SCT) aren't addressed to the same extent. Based on a new investigation that assessed common practices of Primary Care Physicians (PCPs) and pediatricians, providers recognize the importance of discussing SCT with caregivers when it's present in a newborn screening, but attention seemed to falter beyond that.

"Although pediatricians are really great about recognizing that, 'yes, we need to mention the diagnosis,' they self report that they're not great at going back at other times and talking about it," lead investigator Corinna Schultz, MD, Department of Pediatrics, Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, Nemours Children's Health, said.

In an interview with HCPLive, Schultz explained a few reasons why it's important to continue the conversation of sickle cell trait with the family and patient as they grow. Sickle cell disease may not be present, but the trait is still associated with possible complications which needs to be monitored.

"This diagnosis came from somewhere. Sickle cell trait is inherited from one of the parents, and so as those parents are out of that infancy period for their child, they might be thinking about having another child of their own and they may want this information for their own reproductive discussions and thoughts," she said.

Additionally, as these patients crossover from pediatric care to adult care, they begin to imagine what they want for their own family in the future and it's crucial that the knowledge of their medical information is understood, according to Schultz.

These findings were featured at the American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting and Exposition, and provided novel insight to a current gap in care for this population. While there are many factors that contribute to this gap that need to be addressed, such as stigma and racism, Schultz explained that it starts with the education of early physicians in medical school but continues into residency.

"I think we need to start by changing what we're teaching young physicians and young nurse practitioners," she said. "There is a growing body of literature showing that there are medical complications that can come with sickle cell trait. So although, for most people, it ends up being a benign issue, for some people it's not, and even just realizing that there could be things that come about with sickle cell trait—I think is a big deal."

Learn more about these findings from HCPLive's interview with Dr. Corinna Schultz.