DVIDS – News – MHS tackles SCD with a variety of treatment methods


While sickle cell disease is incompatible with an active military career, it can affect other military beneficiaries and impact a military’s readiness. Still, treatment tries to keep patients as healthy as possible.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that sickle cell anemia affects about 100,000 Americans, including about one in 365 African American births and one in 16,300 Hispanic births.

Sickle cell disease, or SCD, is a group of inherited disorders of red blood cells. The disease makes red blood cells hard and sticky, and resembles a sickle, the C-shaped agricultural tool used to cut grass or harvest crops.

“Sickle cell disease is one of dozens and dozens of hemoglobin mutations that occur in humans and cause disease,” said Army Col. (Dr.) Andrew Cap, director of research at the US Army Institute of Surgical Research at Joint Base San Antonio. Fort Sam Houston, TX, and practicing hematologist at Brooke Army Medical Center.

“Sickle cell disease basically does two things: It causes what we call ‘ineffective hematopoiesis’, in the sense that your bone marrow is busy making red blood cells, but they tend to be cleared out of the circulation faster because they are damaged, ”he said. . “The structural change in the shape of cells also poses problems. When they take on this sickle shape, they lose their flexibility. They have the potential to become clogged in several organs.”

Cap explained that “sickle cell crises” result from the obstruction of capillaries, depriving tissues of oxygen. This can be caused by increased metabolic demand, including physical activity, other illnesses including colds and flu, and changes in temperature.

“Not all sickle cell patients are the same, in the sense that it’s not necessarily predictable – this amount of activity, or this degree of cold, or this disease,” Cap said. “There is a spectrum of disease severity which varies widely.”

The problems resulting from sickle cell disease range from anemia and acute chest attack, where sickle cell blood cells get trapped in a person’s lungs and prevent the normal gas exchange necessary for normal breathing, to blockages in others. vital organs and capillaries throughout the body.

Within the military health care system, sickle cell patients are limited to military dependents due to the health complications that surround it.

“Unfortunately, the physiological effects of sickle cell disease are quite dramatic and incompatible with healthy living, period,” Cap explained. “Most of our sickle cell population is actually in the pediatric area because they are addicted.”

Treatments include folic acid and vitamin B12, due to vitamin deficiencies created by the body clearing for the lack of healthy red blood cells; hydration and pain management; as well as to avoid situations that could lead to an adverse reaction.

“We are trying to keep these patients as healthy as possible,” Cap said.

Another treatment is hydroxyurea, which causes your body to make “younger” red blood cells, or red blood cells similar to what your body makes as a fetus.

“It causes your body to make more ‘fetal’ hemoglobin and less sickle cell hemoglobin,” Cap said.

While this does not affect active service members, another vital treatment for people with sickle cell disease is blood transfusion. Transfusions for people with sickle cell disease are among the most common uses of red blood cells obtained through donation of red blood cells, which can be done through the Armed Forces Blood Program.

World Sickle Cell Awareness Day was held on June 19.

Date taken: 23.06.2021
Date posted: 06/24.2021 09:18
Story ID: 399608
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