June 16, 2006

Lung function abnormal in sickle cell anemia

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Ninety percent of adults with
sickle cell anemia have abnormal lung function tests, according
to a report in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical
Care Medicine.

Sickle cell anemia is a hereditary disease in which red
blood cells assume a sickle shape when body oxygen levels run
low. This sets up a vicious circle, because the sickle cells do
not efficiently deliver oxygen, leading to the formation of
more sickle cells. Severe pain and life-threatening
complications can arise during these sickle crises.

Lung complications are common for sickle cell patients, but
few large studies have characterized the occurrence of abnormal
lung function tests in this population, lead author Dr.
Elizabeth S. Klings, from Boston University School of Medicine,
and colleagues note.

In the present study, lung function tests from 310 adults
with sickle cell anemia were analyzed and correlated with
sickle cell complications. Just 10 percent of patients had
completely normal tests, the report indicates.

The most common type of abnormality was a reduction in the
lung's ability to expand. In addition, gases did not pass
across lung tissue as easily as they do in healthy subjects.

Greater understanding of the use of lung function tests in
sickle cell patients is important because it could lead to a
better understanding of how shortness of breath and low blood
oxygen levels arise in these patients, they add.

SOURCE: American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care
Medicine, June 1, 2006.