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Screening for Sickle Cell Disease

The purpose of screening is early diagnosis and treatment. Screening tests are given to people without symptoms currently, but who may be at high risk for certain diseases or conditions.

Screening Tests

The same tests used to diagnose sickle cell disease can be used to screen for it before symptoms begin. These tests include:

Hemoglobin electrophoresis —A small blood sample is taken and sent to a laboratory, where the percentage of normal and abnormal hemoglobin is measured.

Sickledex test —A small blood sample is taken and sent to a laboratory. In the laboratory, a substance called a deoxygenating agent is added to the blood sample. If the deoxygenating agent causes at least 25% of the red blood cells to assume a sickle shape, the test is considered positive for the presence of either sickle cell trait or sickle cell disease. Hemoglobin electrophoresis will need to be done to distinguish between sickle cell trait and sickle cell disease.

Amniocentesis —In this test, ultrasound is used to locate the fetus and a pocket of the fluid that surrounds the growing fetus. A long, thin needle is used to remove a small amount of amniotic fluid, which is sent to a laboratory for testing.

Screening Guidelines

In many hospitals, screening tests are done on newborn babies before they leave the hospital. Screening tests may also be done on adults who want to know whether they carry the sickle cell trait. Pregnant women can also choose to have their unborn babies tested for the presence of sickle cell trait or disease.

Revision Information

  • Sickle cell disease. Nemours Kids Health website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/sickle-cell-anemia.html. Updated September 2012. Accessed July 1, 2013.

  • Sickle cell disease in adults and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 6, 2013. Accessed July 1, 2013.

  • Sickle cell disease in infants and children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 6, 2013. Accessed July 1, 2013.

  • Sickle cell trait. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/sicklecell/traits.html. Updated September 27, 2012. Accessed July 1, 2013.

The health information in this Health Library is provided by a third party. Parkridge Health System does not in any way create the content of this information. It is provided solely for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for proper medical care provided by a physician. Always consult with your doctor for appropriate examinations, treatment, testing, and care recommendations. Do not rely on information on this site as a tool for self-diagnosis. If you have a medical emergency, call 911.