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Sickle Cell Disease Patients Seek Acute Pain Care Repeatedly
Date:4/6/2010

Researchers find frequent returns to hospital for treatment, at higher rates than expected

TUESDAY, April 6 (HealthDay News) -- People with sickle cell disease often visit hospitals repeatedly in search of treatment, according to new research.

In eight states studied, researchers found that one-third of sickle cell patients who visited the hospital returned within 30 days in search of pain relief. Young people, between the ages of 18 and 30, were especially likely to seek care.

"I think it's not so much a failure of the hospital itself, but a failure of us being able to prevent these complications and being able to treat them," said Dr. George R. Buchanan, a pediatrics professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, who is familiar with the study findings.

An estimated 70,000 to 100,000 people in the United States have sickle cell disease, an inherited and often-painful condition that causes red blood cells to turn into a sickle shape. Blacks are most vulnerable to the disease, but other races can develop it too.

"The cells are very inflexible and they clog up the blood vessels," Buchanan said. Oxygen fails to get to tissues in the bone, heart and brain, he said, often leading to severe pain -- "like the pain of a heart attack" -- and organ failure.

Stem-cell treatments can cure the disease, but "the problem is it's risky and only a small minority of patients have a donor, usually a brother or sister, whose bone marrow matches theirs," Buchanan said.

The new study, published in the April 7 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, aimed to determine how often sickle cell patients seek acute care from hospitals.

Researchers from the Medical College of Wisconsin and the Children's Research Institute at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin analyzed statistics from hospitals in eight states for the years 2005 and 2006. A total of 21,112 sic
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