Image of sickle cells

Our team of experts at UChicago Comer Children's can diagnose and treat sickle cell disease in children of all ages. As part of a network of physicians, we take an integrated approach to each patient’s care. We help during every step along the way — from initial testing to ongoing disease management to innovative treatment methods.

Comer Children's among the first in the country to offer newly approved sickle cell gene therapies

What is Sickle Cell Disease?

Sickle cell disease is a lifelong, inherited blood disorder that impacts red blood cells.

Children with sickle cell disease have an abnormal type of hemoglobin (the molecule in red blood cells that delivers oxygen to the body) that causes blood cells to become crescent-shaped.

These misshapen cells are more fragile and have difficulty passing through the body's blood vessels. This means there are less cells to carry around oxygen and tissues throughout the body can become damaged.

Why Choose Comer Children's for Treating your Child’s Sickle Cell Disease or Anemia?

A multi-disciplinary team of experts: Our hematologists, nurses, and gene therapy and transplant specialists work together seamlessly to provide personalized, advanced care.

At the forefront of sickle cell research: Our Comer Children's physician-scientists are working to develop new therapies that focus on sickle cell disease prevention and new protocols for the most up-to-date treatments.

A comprehensive approach: In addition to our clinical care, we offer counseling and support from psychologists, social workers, and child life providers to address concerns and stress that may accompany chronic illness.

Frequently Asked Questions about Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle cell disease can cause problems all over the body. Because most patients with sickle cell disease have anemia, they may have decreased energy. They can also develop jaundice and/or gallstones from the broken red blood cells.

Because sickle-shaped cells reduce the flow of blood through a person's blood vessels, patients may experience:

  • Episodes of pain and/or infection
  • Damage to organs (lungs, kidneys, liver, spleen)
  • Damage to joints (usually hips and knees)
  • Priapism
  • Stroke, in more severe cases

It's important for your child to have regular appointments with his/her hematologist to monitor blood count and any current symptoms. If your child has an acute pain crisis, fever, or other concerning symptom, seek medical care immediately.

Around 100,000 people have sickle cell disease in the United States.

While a child of any race or nationality can be born with sickle cell, it occurs most often among African-Americans.

Sickle cell disease occurs in:

  • Around 1 out of every 365 African-American births
  • Around 1 out of every 16,300 Hispanic-American births

Testing for sickle cell disease is part of mandatory newborn screening in Illinois and across the United States.

Physicians use a blood test to confirm or rule out the presence of sickle cell disease or the sickle trait. Early diagnosis is key to the success of ongoing management of sickle cell.

Until recently, stem cell transplantation was the only cure for sickle cell disease.

However, new gene therapy treatments have been approved by the FDA and represent a major step forward for sickle cell treatment.

Treatment for sickle cell disease varies greatly and depends on the severity of symptoms. Ongoing treatment plans often involve:

  • Antibiotics to prevent and/or treat infections
  • Blood transfusions
  • Pain relievers
  • Practicing healthy habits like drinking lots of water, washing hands properly, and avoiding things that trigger sickling like smoking and exposure to cold temperatures

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your doctor may recommend use of some of the following medicines:

  • Hydroxyurea, which stimulates production of fetal hemoglobin and has been shown to decrease painful episodes.
  • Crizanlizumab (Adakveo), which can help reduce pain crises.
  • L-glutamine oral powder (Endari), which helps lessen pain and fatigue.
  • Voxelotor (Oxbryta), which helps prevent red blood cells from sickling and return to a normal shape.

Meet our Sickle Cell Disease Specialists

Led by Radhika Peddinti, MD, our physician team provides the highest level of care for children of all ages with sickle cell disease.

We work closely with our pediatric stem cell and cellular therapy team for advanced treatment of sickle cell in certain cases with severe complications.

Meet Additional Members of our Sickle Cell Disease Team

  • Tanisha Jones, APN

Request an Appointment

The information you provide will enable us to assist you as efficiently as possible. A representative will contact you within one to two business days to help you schedule an appointment.

To speak to someone directly, please call 773-702-6808. If you have symptoms of an urgent nature, please call your doctor or go to the emergency room immediately.

For Referring Physicians

To refer a pediatric patient, please call UCM Physician Connect at 1-800-824-2282

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Pediatric Sickle Cell Disease