Goal 2: Reduce Human Disease

Apheresis Medicine in the Management of Sickle Cell Disease

Despite advances in care, patients with sickle cell disease have significant morbidity and mortality. One challenge is the optimal use of simple vs exchange transfusion vs no transfusion when managing these patients. Simple transfusions lead to iron overload while exchange transfusions may expose patients to increase numbers of red blood cell units. The mechanism of benefit from transfusion (oxygen delivery vs marrow suppression) has not been defined. Further, there are compelling preliminary data suggesting that plasma exchange may be have benefit for patients in crisis, but neither the mechanism for this benefit nor the precise role of plasma exchange has been defined. Well-designed clinical trials are clearly needed

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Is this idea a Compelling Question (CQ) or Critical Challenge (CC)? : Critical Challenge (CC)

Details on the impact of addressing this CQ or CC :

SCD is the most common genetic disease in the United States affecting 100,000 individuals or 1 in 400 African American births. Pain, stroke, acute chest syndrome and priapism are common morbidities affecting patients with sickle cell disease, which often result in emergency room visits and/or hospitalizations. Despite advances in treatment, sickle cell disease is associated with significant mortality and shortened life expectancy. Defining the optimal role of red blood cell exchange and plasma exchange (which may be used to remove plasma molecules such as inflammatory factors and free hemoglobin) in the management and prevention of the complications of sickle cell disease and may not only prolong the life of these patients but is expected to improve the quality of their lives. In addition, clearly defining the indications for simple verses exchange transfusion therapy has the potential to minimize both alloimmunization to red blood cells (reported to occur in up to 75% of patients with sickle cell disease) and iron overload associated with transfusion.


Transfusion therapy may be efficacious to sickle cell patients by providing increased oxygen delivery to tissues and/or decreasing the amount of sickle hemoglobin present by suppression of erythropoiesis. Understanding the relative contributions of these mechanisms will assist with optimal use of transfusion therapy as well as inform the development of novel alternative therapies

Feasibility and challenges of addressing this CQ or CC :

Multi-center trials should be feasible, given the number of patients with sickle cell disease in the US. Participation by larger academic centers which care for sickle cell patients should facilitate trials. Methods for automated red cell exchange and plasma exchange are available and in common use at many centers. Great interest exists among physicians caring for sickle cell patients (as exemplified by the recent NIH consensus document and ASFA sickle cell consensus conference) which is a strength of this proposal. Challenges include agreement on standard treatment protocols across centers and long term follow up of patients. Maintaining vascular access in sickle cell patients is another challenge when performing apheresis procedures on sickle cell patients

Name of idea submitter and other team members who worked on this idea : Bruce Sachais on behalf of ASFA


130 net votes
152 up votes
22 down votes
Idea No. 654