Clinical Program

Sickle CellPatients with sickle cell disease receive their routine care at the outpatient Hematology/Oncology clinics located in the North Carolina Cancer Center Hospital at UNC, Chapel Hill. 

Pediatric sickle cell clinics are held on Mondays. Both check-in and clinic are located on the first floor.

Adult clinic is held on Tuesdays. Adult patients check-in on the ground floor; the clinic itself is located on the second floor.

Patient and family education is provided at the time of clinic visits and is a part of comprehensive care.

 

Outpatient and Inpatient Sickle Cell Services

Sickle cell disease affects just about every organ in the body. As a result, we provide a multitude of specialty services to meet the needs of patients with the disease. We, at the Sickle Cell Program, work very closely with our colleagues in ophthalmology, nephrology, general surgery, hepatology, pulmonology and orthopedic surgery to provide preventive and treatment services.

Access to state-of-the-art imaging techniques plays a major role in the care of patients with sickle cell disease. Imaging modalities available at our center include transcranial Doppler studies for stroke prevention in children, abdominal ultrasound for gallstones, imaging of the bones to evaluate avascular necrosis, and magnetic resonance imaging of the brain for detection of silent infarcts and strokes.

Neuropsychological screening is available to help identify problems, which if not adequately addressed, can affect a child's ability to learn. Consultations with a psychiatrist are arranged as needed. Pulmonary hypertension is common in patients with sickle cell disease. Because the majority of patients have no specific symptoms, particularly at the early stages of this complication, we routinely screen all our adult patients for this complication.

Patients who are admitted to the inpatient services are routinely followed by the sickle cell team, in consultation with the admitting service.

 

Transfusion services

Blood transfusion is an important treatment modality in patients with sickle cell disease. Chronic blood transfusions, usually every 3 to 4 weeks, are provided to prevent recurrence of stroke in a child who has already experienced stroke or to avoid stroke in a child who has been determined to be at risk for stroke. Less commonly, some people with sickle cell disease receive chronic transfusions to reduce the number of painful episodes or the risk of recurrent acute chest syndrome and other complications.

 

However, blood transfusions may occasionally be associated with life-threatening complications. As a result, we work very closely with the Blood Bank at UNC, Chapel Hill, as well as the American Red Cross to ensure that when patients are transfused, they receive blood that is closely matched with their own. Automated exchange transfusion, given on the Apheresis Unit, is the preferred method of transfusion for those on chronic transfusions to avoid iron overload.

 

Social work services There is a social worker at the Sickle Cell Program who provides a wide range of services related to psychosocial needs in coping with this chronic illness, as well as navigation through hospital and insurance systems. Assistance is also provided for school, employment and financial issues and in referrals to community-based and support agencies. When needed, our social worker helps to coordinate psychiatric and psychological consultations with specialists within the Hospital.

Twenty-four hour consultations

Patients, as well as parents of patients can reach a member of the sickle cell team on a 24-hour basis by calling our toll-free number at 1-800-476-6876. Parents, caretakers, and older patients should call whenever a patient is ill so that they can be directed to an appropriate site for treatment. For acute illness, patients may be evaluated at the Sickle Cell Clinic (for minor problems and by appointment), or the Emergency Department.