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A sickle cell test is a blood test done to check for sickle cell trait or sickle cell disease. Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disease that causes red blood cells to be deformed (sickle-shaped). The red blood cells deform because they contain an abnormal type of hemoglobin, called hemoglobin S, instead of the normal hemoglobin, called hemoglobin A.
Sickled blood cells are destroyed by the body faster than normal blood cells. This causes anemia. Also, sickled cells can get trapped in blood vessels and reduce or block blood flow. This can damage organs, muscles, and bones and may lead to life-threatening conditions.
The best way to check for sickle cell trait or sickle cell disease is to look at the blood using a method called high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). This test identifies which type of hemoglobin is present. To confirm the results of HPLC, a genetic test may be done.
A person inherits two sets of genes (one set from each parent). As a result, a person may have:
The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends that all newborns be tested for sickle cell disease.footnote 1
A sickle cell test is done to help diagnose sickle cell disease.
A sickle cell test is also done to screen for sickle cell trait or sickle cell disease. This test may be done for newborns and for people at high risk. Detecting sickle cell trait is important for couples who want to have children and who may be carriers of sickle cell trait.
Be sure to tell your doctor if you have had a blood transfusion in the past 4 months because it can interfere with the test results.
The health professional drawing blood will:
During newborn testing, the blood sample is usually taken from your baby's heel (called a heel stick).
The blood sample is taken from a vein in your arm. An elastic band is wrapped around your upper arm. It may feel tight. You may feel nothing at all from the needle, or you may feel a quick sting or pinch.
Your baby may feel a sting or a pinch with a heel stick.
There is very little chance of a problem from having a blood sample taken from a vein.
Usually, there are no problems from a heel stick. A small bruise may develop. Babies with bleeding problems may bleed more with usual. Sometimes bleeding problems are found when blood is being collected for the sickle cell test.
A sickle cell test is a blood test done to screen for sickle cell trait or sickle cell disease.
Normal hemoglobin is present.
Abnormal hemoglobin is present.
In babies, a sickle cell blood test may be repeated at 6 months old, or a genetic information (DNA) test may be done.
Having a blood transfusion in the past 4 months can cause a false-negative test result because of the normal hemoglobin from the blood donor.
CitationsU.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2007). Screening for sickle cell disease in newborns. Available online: http://www.ahrq.gov/clinic/uspstf/uspshemo.htm.Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.Other Works ConsultedChernecky CC, Berger BJ (2008). Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures, 5th ed. St. Louis: Saunders.Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby's Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.
Current as of: November 8, 2019
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineMartin J. Gabica MD - Family MedicineMartin Steinberg MD - Hematology
Current as of: November 8, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Martin Steinberg MD - Hematology
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