An observational study of children with sickle cell disease in Kilifi, Kenya

Sadarangani M, Makani J, Komba AN, Ajala-Agbo T, Newton CR, Marsh K, Williams TN
Br J Haematol. 2009;146

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Globally, sickle cell disease (SCD) has its highest prevalence and worst prognosis in sub-Saharan Africa. Nevertheless, relatively few studies describe the clinical characteristics of children with SCD in this region. We conducted a prospective observational study of children with SCD attending a specialist out-patient clinic in Kilifi, Kenya. A total of 124 children (median age 6.3 years) were included in the study. Splenomegaly was present in 41 (33%) subjects and hepatomegaly in 25 (20%), both being common in all age groups. A positive malaria slide was found at 6% of clinic visits. The mean haemoglobin concentration was 73 g/l, compared to 107 g/l in non-SCD controls (P < 0.001). Liver function tests were elevated; plasma bilirubin concentrations were 46 micromol/l and aspartate aminotransferase was 124 iu/l. Forty-eight (39%) children were admitted to hospital and two died. Children with SCD in Kilifi have a similar degree of anaemia and liver function derangement to patients living in developed countries, but splenomegaly persists into later childhood. The prevalence of malaria was lower than expected given the prevalence in the local community. This study provides valuable data regarding the clinical characteristics of children living with SCD in a rural setting in East Africa.