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      Mortality In Sickle Cell Disease -- Life Expectancy and Risk Factors for Early Death

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          Abstract

          Information on life expectancy and risk factors for early death among patients with sickle cell disease (sickle cell anemia, sickle cell-hemoglobin C disease, and the sickle cell-beta-thalassemias) is needed to counsel patients, target therapy, and design clinical trials. We followed 3764 patients who ranged from birth to 66 years of age at enrollment to determine the life expectancy and calculate the median age at death. In addition, we investigated the circumstances of death for all 209 adult patients who died during the study, and used proportional-hazards regression analysis to identify risk factors for early death among 964 adults with sickle cell anemia who were followed for at least two years. Among children and adults with sickle cell anemia (homozygous for sickle hemoglobin), the median age at death was 42 years for males and 48 years for females. Among those with sickle cell-hemoglobin C disease, the median age at death was 60 years for males and 68 years for females. Among adults with sickle cell disease, 18 percent of the deaths occurred in patients with overt organ failure, predominantly renal. Thirty-three percent were clinically free of organ failure but died during an acute sickle crisis (78 percent had pain, the chest syndrome, or both; 22 percent had stroke). Modeling revealed that in patients with sickle cell anemia, the acute chest syndrome, renal failure, seizures, a base-line white-cell count above 15,000 cells per cubic millimeter, and a low level of fetal hemoglobin were associated with an increased risk of early death. Fifty percent of patients with sickle cell anemia survived beyond the fifth decade. A large proportion of those who died had no overt chronic organ failure but died during an acute episode of pain, chest syndrome, or stroke. Early mortality was highest among patients whose disease was symptomatic. A high level of fetal hemoglobin predicted improved survival and is probably a reliable childhood forecaster of adult life expectancy.

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          Pain in sickle cell disease. Rates and risk factors.

          Acute episodes of pain are the principal symptom of sickle cell disease, but little is known about the epidemiologic features of these episodes or risk factors for them, nor is it known whether patients with high rates of such episodes die prematurely. We prospectively studied the natural history of sickle cell disease in 3578 patients ranging from newborns to persons up to 66 years old who were followed at clinical centers across the United States. There were 12,290 episodes of pain in 18,356 patient-years. The average rate was 0.8 episode per patient-year in sickle cell anemia, 1.0 episode per patient-year in sickle beta 0-thalassemia, and 0.4 episode per patient-year in hemoglobin SC disease and sickle beta(+)-thalassemia. The rate varied widely within each of these four groups--e.g., 39 percent of patients with sickle cell anemia had no episodes of pain, and 1 percent had more than six episodes per year. The 5.2 percent of patients with 3 to 10 episodes per year had 32.9 percent of all episodes. Among patients with sickle cell anemia who were more than 20 years old, those with high rates of pain episodes tended to die earlier than those with low rates. High rates were associated with a high hematocrit and low fetal hemoglobin levels. alpha-Thalassemia had no effect on pain apart from its association with an increased hematocrit. The "pain rate" (episodes per year) is a measure of clinical severity and correlates with early death in patients with sickle cell anemia over the age of 20. Even when the fetal hemoglobin level is low, one can predict that small increments in the level may have an ameliorating effect on the pain rate and may ultimately improve survival. This outcome is particularly encouraging to investigators studying hydroxyurea and other treatments designed to increase the fetal hemoglobin level.
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            Causes of death in sickle-cell disease in Jamaica.

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              Two different molecular organizations account for the single alpha-globin gene of the alpha-thalassemia-2 genotype.

              The alpha-thalassemia-2 (alpha-thal-2) genotype or mild alpha-thalassemia gene consists of a single structural alpha-globin gene on the chromosome that normally bears two alpha-globin genes. We used blot hybridization to investigate variation in the molecular organization of this genotype and to determine the distributions of these variations in the world population. Two different patterns of gene organization responsible for the alpha-thal-2 genotype were found: the first was the result of a 4.2-kilobase pair deletion involving the normal 5' alpha-globin gene (leftward deletion alpha-thal-2 genotype), and the second probably the result of a crossover deletion of a DNA fragment bridging the two normal alpha-globin genes (rightward deletion alpha-thal-2- genotype). The rightward deletion was found in all 9 Black subjects, all 8 Mediterranean subjects, and 4 of 13 Chinese subjects. The leftward deletion was found in four and the nondeletion alpha-thalassemia lesion was found in five of the nine remaining Chinese subjects. It is likely that these deletions are related to specific DNA sequences that determine DNA recombinational events.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                New England Journal of Medicine
                N Engl J Med
                Massachusetts Medical Society
                0028-4793
                1533-4406
                June 09 1994
                June 09 1994
                : 330
                : 23
                : 1639-1644
                Article
                10.1056/NEJM199406093302303
                7993409
                3d4b8888-2245-43fd-9bd1-91825b588255
                © 1994
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