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Red blood cells, sickle cell
Red blood cells, sickle cell


Red blood cells, multiple sickle cells
Red blood cells, multiple sickle cells


Red blood cells, sickle cells
Red blood cells, sickle cells


Red blood cells, sickle and pappenheimer
Red blood cells, sickle and pappenheimer


Definition:

A sickle cell test looks for the presence or absence of abnormal hemoglobin in the blood that causes sickle cell anemia.



Alternative Names:

Sickledex; Hgb S test



How the test is performed:

Blood is typically drawn from a vein, usually from the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand. The site is cleaned with germ-killing medicine (antiseptic). The health care provider wraps an elastic band around the upper arm to apply pressure to the area and make the vein swell with blood.

Next, the health care provider gently inserts a needle into the vein. The blood collects into an airtight vial or tube attached to the needle. The elastic band is removed from your arm.

Once the blood has been collected, the needle is removed, and the puncture site is covered to stop any bleeding.

In infants or young children, a sharp tool called a lancet may be used to puncture the skin and make it bleed. The blood collects into a small glass tube called a pipette, or onto a slide or test strip. A bandage may be placed over the area if there is any bleeding.



How the test will feel:

When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain, while others feel only a prick or stinging sensation. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.



Why the test is performed:

This test is done to tell if you have abnormal hemoglobin that causes sickle cell disease and sickle cell trait.

In sickle cell disease, a person has two abnormal hemoglobin S genes.

A person with sickle cell trait has only one of the problem hemoglobin S genes and no symptoms, or only mild ones.

However, this test does not tell the difference between these two conditions. Another test called hemoglobin electrophoresis is needed to do so.



Normal Values:

A negative test result is normal.



What abnormal results mean:
  • Sickle cell trait
  • Sickle cell anemia


What the risks are:

There is very little risk involved with having your blood taken. Veins and arteries vary in size from one patient to another and from one side of the body to the other. Taking blood from some people may be more difficult than from others.

Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight but may include:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Fainting or feeling light-headed
  • Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
  • Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)


Special considerations:

Iron deficiency or blood transfusions within the past three months can cause a false negative result.



References:

Saunthararajah Y, Vichinsky EP, Embury SH. Sickle cell disease. In: Hoffman R, Benz EJ Jr, Shattil SJ, Furie B, Cohen HJ, eds. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Churchill Livingston; 2005:chap 37.




Review Date: 2/13/2009
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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