Sex as an Independent Risk Factor for Venous Thromboembolism in Sickle Cell Disease: A Cross-Sectional Study

J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2022 Oct;31(10):1467-1471. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2022.0046. Epub 2022 Jun 8.


Venous thromboembolism (VTE) affects up to 25% of individuals with sickle cell disease (SCD), but risk factors are not well characterized. We sought to measure the prevalence of VTE among SCD patients in our health system and to describe the relationship between medical history, biological sex, and VTE. We performed a retrospective chart review of SCD patients who visited an outpatient hematology clinic within Penn Medicine between June 2014 and June 2019. Demographics and medical history were compared across those with and without a history of VTE. We developed a logistic regression model to describe factors independently associated with VTE. Of 597 patients with SCD who were identified, 147 (24.6%) had a history of VTE; 100 were female and 47 were male. In the regression model, female sex was independently associated with history of VTE (odds ratio 1.91, 95% confidence interval 1.26-2.91), as were pulmonary hypertension, hydroxyurea use, and history of stroke. Among females only, 49.7% were parous and 18.8% had used oral contraceptives, and these proportions did not differ by history of VTE. One-quarter of the SCD patients in our health system had a history of VTE, confirming significantly higher rates than in the general population. Females had twice the odds of VTE compared to males, highlighting an important sex disparity in SCD disease outcomes and raising questions regarding optimal pregnancy and contraceptive care for females with SCD.

Keywords: pulmonary embolism; sex; sickle cell anemia; venous thromboembolism; venous thrombosis.

MeSH terms

  • Anemia, Sickle Cell* / complications
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell* / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Venous Thromboembolism* / epidemiology
  • Venous Thromboembolism* / etiology