In this MD Newsline exclusive interview with hematologist/oncologist Dr. Cheryl Mensah, we discuss sickle cell disease screening tests. We also discuss why a smooth transition from pediatric to adult care is so important for patients with sickle cell disease.
Which screening tests should providers order for their patients with sickle cell disease?
Dr. Cheryl Mensah:
“The best screening test for sickle cell disease is hemoglobin electrophoresis, which can quantify the amount of sickled red blood cells.
Then, there are several screening tests that we use to look for complications that can occur in patients with sickle cell disease. For example, in children, we order a transcranial Doppler ultrasound to look at the blood vessels in the brain and determine if the patient is at risk for a stroke. Recently, a one-time MRI was approved to screen for stroke in adults with sickle cell disease.
Finally, we also use micro-albumin in the urine to look for signs of kidney disease, and we use a dilated eye exam performed by an ophthalmologist to screen for retinopathy.
These last four screening tests I mentioned can all help to diagnose complications of sickle cell disease and treat them before they become severe.”
Why is a smooth transition from pediatric to adult care so important for patients with sickle cell disease?
Dr. Cheryl Mensah:
“For all patients, the period between the ages of 18 and 30 is a very vulnerable time. It’s a time when patients experience independence and make their own decisions about their health care. But it’s also a time when a lot of young people stop seeing their doctors and stop taking their medications as often.
Unfortunately, patients with sickle cell disease really can’t afford not to see their doctors and have proper care. And that’s why a smooth transition from pediatric to adult care is so important for patients with sickle cell disease. Otherwise, patients often get trapped in a cycle of seeing multiple ER doctors and multiple hospital specialists and don’t get any long-term care.
So, aiding your patients in smoothly making this transition from pediatric to adult care is crucial.”
Responses have been condensed and lightly edited.