Chronic renal failure in sickle cell disease: risk factors, clinical course, and mortality

Ann Intern Med. 1991 Oct 15;115(8):614-20. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-115-8-614.


Objective: To determine the incidence, clinical course, and risk factors associated with the onset of chronic renal failure in sickle cell anemia and sickle C disease.

Design: A prospective, 25-year longitudinal demographic and clinical cohort study. A matched case-control study was conducted to determine risk factors.

Patients: A total of 725 patients with sickle cell anemia and 209 patients with sickle C disease who received medical care from the hematology service in a large municipal hospital. Most were observed from birth or early childhood.

Measurements: Thirty-six patients developed sickle renal failure: 4.2% of patients with sickle cell anemia and 2.4% of patients with sickle C disease. The median age of disease onset for these patients was 23.1 and 49.9 years, respectively. Survival time for patients with sickle cell anemia after the diagnosis of sickle renal failure, despite dialysis, was 4 years, and the median age at the time of death was 27 years. Relative risk for mortality was 1.42 (95% Cl, 1.12 to 1.81; P = 0.02) compared with patients who did not develop renal insufficiency.

Main results: Histopathologic studies showed characteristic lesions of glomerular "drop out" and glomerulosclerosis. Case-control analysis showed that ineffective erythropoiesis with increasingly severe anemia, hypertension, proteinuria, the nephrotic syndrome, and microscopic hematuria were significant pre-azotemic predictors of chronic renal failure. The risk for sickle renal failure was increased in patients who had inherited the Central African Republic beta s-gene cluster haplotype.

Conclusions: The pre-azotemic manifestations of hypertension, proteinuria, and increasingly severe anemia predict end-stage renal failure in patients with sickle cell disease. The rate of progression of renal insufficiency is genetically determined. Treatment of the uremic phase has been dismal, underscoring the need for the development of useful pre-azotemic therapeutic modalities.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / complications*
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / genetics
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / mortality
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Hemoglobin SC Disease / complications*
  • Hemoglobin SC Disease / genetics
  • Hemoglobin SC Disease / mortality
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / etiology*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / mortality
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Survival Rate