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SAMJ: South African Medical Journal

On-line version ISSN 2078-5135
Print version ISSN 0256-9574


WONKAM, Ambroise et al. The burden of sickle cell disease in Cape Town. SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. [online]. 2012, vol.102, n.9, pp.753-754. ISSN 2078-5135.

BACKGROUND: South Africa has a low incidence of sickle cell disease (SCD). However, its demographics are changing because of immigration from sub-Saharan African countries where SCD is prevalent. OBJECTIVES: We aimed to determine the frequency of SCD presenting to the Haematology/Oncology Service at Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital in Cape Town and to measure the associated disease burden. METHODS: This was a retrospective cross-sectional study of patients first attending the Haematology Service between January 2001 and June 2010. RESULTS: A total of 58 SCD patients were indentified, with an annual frequency that increased over the study period by 300 -400%. Up to 93.1% (n=54) were originally from other African countries, mainly the Democratic Republic of Congo (62.1%, n=36). One patient had sickle D-Punjab genotype, and all the other patients had the homozygous sickle cell anaemia genotype (Hb SS). Their haematological parameters demonstrated a normocytic anaemia with high white cell counts. The mean number of clinic visits per patient per year was 22.2 (range 0 - 64), and the mean number of hospital admissions per patient per year was 1.2 (range 0 - 5). All the patients were on antibiotic prophylaxis. The majority had at least one blood transfusion (65.5%, n=38), and a significant proportion required intravenous analgesia on admission (29.3%, n=17) and hydroxyurea treatment (36.2%, n=21). CONCLUSIONS: Over the past 10 years the frequency of SCD has increased considerably, imposing a significant burden and new challenges to the health services in Cape Town.

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