Recommendations for the management of sickle cell disease in South Africa

S Afr Med J. 2014 Nov;104(11):743-51. doi: 10.7196/samj.8470.


The spectrum of sickle cell disease (SCD) encompasses a heterogeneous group of disorders that include: (I) homozygous SCD (HbSS), also referred to as sickle cell anaemia; (ii) heterozygous SCD (HbAS), also referred to as sickle cell trait; and (iii) compound heterozygous states such as HbSC disease, HbSβ thalassaemia, etc. Homozygous or compound heterozygous SCD patients manifest with clinical disease of varying severity that is influenced by biological and environmental factors, whereas subject with sickle cell trait are largely asymptomatic. SCD is characterized by vaso-occlusive episodes that result in tissue ischaemia and pain in the affected region. Repeated infarctive episodes cause organ damage and may eventually lead to organ failure. For effective management, regular follow-up with support from a multidisciplinary healthcare team is necessary. The chronic nature of the disease, the steady increase in patient numbers, and relapsing acute episodes have cost implications that are likely to impact on provincial and national health budgets. Limited resources mandate local management protocols for the purposes of consistency and standardisation, which could also facilitate sharing of resources between centres for maximal utility. These recommendations have been developed for the South African setting, and it is intended to update them regularly to meet new demands and challenges.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / therapy*
  • Disease Management
  • Hemoglobin SC Disease / therapy
  • Pain Management / methods
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Sickle Cell Trait / therapy
  • South Africa