Happy child recovering

What is Sickle Cell Disease?

Sickle cell disease is a genetic blood disorder that affects hemoglobin in red blood cells. Hemoglobin is a protein that carries oxygen to all parts of the body. Normal red blood cells are round and smooth. In a child with sickle cell disease, red blood cells are hard, sticky and shaped like a crescent, or sickle.

Our Sickle Cell Program

Our Sickle Cell Disease Program is the largest pediatric program in the country, caring for more than 2,000 children and young adults. Combining the latest proven technology and research with a caring, child-friendly approach makes the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center a top choice for the treatment of sickle cell disease.

  • We are a member of the Atlanta Sickle Cell Consortium, a citywide collaboration of physicians and researchers advancing the treatment of sickle cell disease and trying to develop a cure.
  • We have been recognized as a national leader in transplanting patients with sickle cell disease through BMT, treating nearly 100 children.
  • At each of our locations, a specialized multidisciplinary team of pediatric hematologists, nurse practitioners, nurses, social workers, psychologists, teachers and chaplains provides care to our patients.

  • Give plenty of fluids
  • Provide liberal bathroom privileges
  • Avoid physical exhaustion
  • Avoid extreme temperatures

Sickled red blood cells stick together and block blood vessels, causing complications and excruciating pain, such as:

  • Acute chest syndrome: Sudden damage to lung tissue is common in children with sickle cell disease.
  • Fever and infection: Even minor infections become a medical emergency for a child with sickle cell disease.
  • Nephropathy: When sickled red blood cells get trapped inside the blood vessels of the kidneys, they cause kidney damage.
  • Pain: Sickled red blood cells get stuck and block the flow of blood to parts of the body, such as bones, lungs, spleen, brain, eyes and kidneys, causing immense pain.
  • Stroke: A blockage or bleeding of the blood vessels can cause a loss of blood supply to parts of the brain, leading to a stroke.

At the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, our focus is on prevention, treatment and follow-up care for pediatric sickle cell disease and sickle cell disease complications in kids. We offer the following services to our patient families:

  • 24-hour acute care.
  • Health maintenance services.
  • Comprehensive clinics at three sites in metro Atlanta.
  • Specialty clinics.
  • Sickle Cell Pain Treatment Program.
  • Transfusion services.
  • Newborn screening and follow-up.
  • New patient evaluations.
  • Genetic counseling (helping parents understand the sickle cell trait and how it can be passed along to their children).
  • Patient counseling and education (teaching families how to prevent infections, pain and other health problems related to sickle cell disease).
  • Teachers help preventing school disruption from missed days.
  • Child life services to help with anxiety during procedures or interactions.
  • Social work services to provide outside resources.

Just as important, we offer innovative services, technology and research to manage—and even cure—sickle cell disease:

  • Blood and marrow transplant (BMT): Also referred to as a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, this is the only known cure for sickle cell disease. We are a national leader in transplanting stem cells for children with sickle cell disease.
  • Hydroxyurea: This medicine can help reduce sickle cell symptoms and improve quality of life. It helps red blood cells stay soft, round and slippery.
  • Transcranial doppler (TCD) screening: TCD screening evaluates patients for stroke risk.
  • Clinical trials: We are searching for better treatments, preventive measures and cures through our research efforts.