Hydroxyurea use and hospitalization trends in a comprehensive pediatric sickle cell program

PLoS One. 2013 Aug 14;8(8):e72077. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0072077. eCollection 2013.


Background: A decline in hospitalizations and pain episodes among those with sickle cell disease (SCD) who take hydroxyurea (HU) has been shown when compared to pre-HU patterns but paradoxically, when compared to those who have never been treated, HU recipients often have more frequent hospitalizations. This analysis evaluates the impact of increasing usage of HU on trends in hospitalizations and blood transfusions within a large SCD treatment program.

Methods: Eligibility was restricted to patients with Hb SS or Hb Sβ⁰-thalassemia who were 2-18 years old between 2006-2010 and received care at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital (N = 508). Hospitalizations and blood transfusions were calculated for each of the years under study for those exposed and never exposed to HU. Differences in number of hospitalizations before and after HU initiation were compared.

Results: The proportion of patients receiving HU increased by 4% per year on average. In the HU exposed group, a modest decline in mean per-patient hospitalizations and per-patient hospital days occurred, while those never exposed to HU trended toward a slight increase over time. Rates of blood transfusions declined among those on HU but not in patients never exposed to HU. Patients on HU had a median of one fewer hospital admission in the year after initiation of HU, compared to the year prior. Two deaths occurred in the patient population, both of whom were not exposed to HU.

Conclusions: Increasing usage of HU was concurrent with decreased hospitalization rates and blood transfusions. Our results support the utility of HU on decreasing hospitalizations and transfusions for patients with SCD outside of the clinical trial setting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / drug therapy*
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / therapy
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Erythrocyte Transfusion
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / trends*
  • Humans
  • Hydroxyurea / therapeutic use*
  • Male


  • Hydroxyurea

Grants and funding

This work was supported by the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities (ALSAC). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.