Renal abnormalities in sickle cell disease

Am J Hematol. 2000 Apr;63(4):205-11. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1096-8652(200004)63:4<205::aid-ajh8>;2-8.


Sickle cell anemia and the related hemoglobinopathies are associated with a large spectrum of renal abnormalities. The patients have impaired urinary concentrating ability, defects in urinary acidification and potassium excretion, and supranormal proximal tubular function. The latter is manifest by increased secretion of creatinine and by reabsorption of phosphorus and beta(2)-microglobulin. Young patients with sickle cell disease (SCD) have supranormal renal hemodynamics with elevations in both effective renal plasma flow (ERPF) and glomerular filtration rate (GFR). These parameters decrease with age as well as following the administration of prostaglandin inhibitors. Proteinuria, a common finding in adults with sickle cell disease, may progress to the nephrotic syndrome. Proteinuria, hypertension, and increasing anemia predict end-stage renal disease (ESRD). While ESRD can be managed by dialysis and/or renal transplantation, there may be an increased rate of complications in renal transplant recipients with SCD. Hematuria is seen in individuals with all of the SCDs as well as with sickle cell trait. In most cases the etiology of the hematuria turns out to be benign. However, there does appear to be an increased association between SCD and renal medullary carcinoma. Therefore, those SCD patients who present with hematuria should initially undergo a thorough evaluation in order to exclude this aggressive neoplasm. Papillary necrosis may occur due to medullary ischemia and infarction. Erythropoietin levels are usually lower than expected for their degree of anemia and decrease further as renal function deteriorates. An abnormal balance of renal prostaglandins may be responsible for some of the changes in sickle cell nephropathy. Acute renal failure is a component of the acute multiorgan failure syndrome (MOFS). Finally, progression of sickle cell nephropathy to ESRD may be slowed by adequate control of hypertension and proteinuria. However, the prevention of the renal complications of SCD will require a cure for this genetic disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / complications*
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Kidney Diseases / complications*
  • Kidney Diseases / physiopathology