Sickle Cell Disease Program at Arkansas Children's

If your newborn or young child has been diagnosed with sickle cell disease, you likely have a lot of questions. The good news is, with the right care, many children with sickle cell live long, healthy lives. Many take part in the same activities other children enjoy, including sports.

Early treatment is important. Although sickle cell disease is the most common genetic disorder in the United States we’re the only hospital in Arkansas to diagnose, evaluate and treat children who have sickle cell disease. Your child is in good hands here at Arkansas Children’s.

Surround your child with expert sickle cell care

Here, we surround your child with a care team who are experts in sickle cell disease. The care team includes a:

  • Hematologist (doctor who specialize in blood problems)
  • Nurse practitioner (a nurse with extra training who can write prescriptions)
  • Sickle cell specialty nurse
  • Apheresis nurse (a nurse who specializes in machines that draw, separate and return blood)
  • Social worker

Your child will have access to the most advanced care and treatments, including clinical trials.

Get lifetime care for sickle cell

Our team will teach you and your child how to live with and manage this lifelong condition. When your child becomes an adult, our social worker will seamlessly transition his or her care to the adult sickle cell program at the University of Arkansas Medical Center.

Learn more about sickle cell disease and treatment

What is sickle cell disease?

Sickle cell disease is a group of red blood cell disorders. Healthy red blood cells look like round donuts. Sickle cell disease affects the hemoglobin in red blood cells, which:

  • Makes the cells stiff, sticky, and “C” shaped (like a sickle or crescent moon)
  • Makes it harder for red blood cells to flow through blood vessels
  • May cause sickle cells to get stuck in smaller blood vessels and clump together. When this happens, organs and tissues may not get enough blood supply, which can cause pain and damage.

Sickle cells don’t live as long as normal red blood cells. This can lead to anemia (when the blood does not have enough or healthy red blood cells).

Three common types of sickle cell disease

Our expert team treats the three most common types of sickle cell disease.

  • Sickle cell anemia (HbSS) is the most common and most severe type of sickle cell disease. It causes chronic anemia.
  • Sickle cell with hemoglobin C disease (HbSC) comes with moderate anemia and more mild symptoms.
  • Hemoglobin S-beta-thalassemia causes a range of symptoms from mild to severe.

Our doctors also treat less common forms of sickle cell disease.

How is sickle cell disease diagnosed?

Most children are diagnosed at birth when a simple blood test checks for sickle cell disease. Sometimes it is detected before birth. 

Treatments for sickle cell disease

Sickle cell disease treatment aims to keep your child healthy and pain-free. We offer many types of treatment, including:

  • Immunizations — to prevent many infections
  • Transcranial Doppler ultrasound — to check blood flow in the brain and help prevent strokes.
  • Blood transfusions — to ease a pain crisis with donated blood
  • Hydroxyurea —a medicine that boosts the amount of fetal hemoglobin in blood cells. This helps the blood cells flow more easily, which can prevent pain crises and other complications.
  • Strategies to prevent and manage pain
  • Apheresis — to help remove sickle cells and replace them with normal red blood cells. Blood is removed, separated into plasma and blood cells, then healthy cells are then put back into the body. 
  • Hospitalization — when needed to help control a pain crisis. Care teams may suggest hydration, medicines and/or blood transfusions during your child’s stay.

We’ll work with you to create the best treatment plan for your child’s specific type of sickle cell disease and symptoms.

Clinical Trials

Your child may also be able to take part in a clinical trial for sickle cell patients with pain crises:

A Phase 3, Multicenter, Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-controlled, Parallel-group Study To Evaluate The Efficacy And Safety Of Rivipansel (Gmi-1070) In The Treatment Of Vaso-occlusive Crisis In Hospitalized Subjects With Sickle Cell Disease:

Meet the Team

Our highly skilled sickle cell medical team includes:

Make an Appointment

To make an appointment or contact us, please call 501-364-4000. You must have a referral from your child’s doctor or the Department of Health.

Arkansas Children's Hospital
South Wing, 1st Floor
1 Children's Way, Slot 512-10A
Little Rock, AR 72202

Office: 501-364-1494
Fax: 501-364-4332

Medical Director: Suzanne Saccente, M.D.

Resources for Families

Visit these websites to learn more about sickle cell disease and treatments:

  • Sickle Cell Disease Association of America. This Baltimore, MD, nonprofit provides information about sickle cell disease for patients and families and supports research and legislation to address the health issues of those living with the condition.
  • American Sickle Cell Anemia Association. This Cleveland, Ohio, nonprofit provides services to families with sickle cell disease, such as diagnostic testing, evaluation, counseling and supportive services.
  • National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. This government website provides information about sickle cell diagnosis, treatment, living with the condition and clinical trials.