Better diagnosis, treatment stops deadly sickle cell complication

Wednesday, June 21st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

(Undated-AP) -- Scientists say they know the cause of a fatal complication of sickle cell anemia. And they say most patients can
be saved by aggressive treatment.

Researchers put tubes into the lungs to examine patients with acute chest syndrome. In this condition, patients develop severe
pain, fever, cough and pneumonia. It's the leading killer of people with sickle cell, in which oxygen-carrying red blood cells are

The researchers found bacteria that typically afflict people with poor immune systems were one underlying cause of acute chest syndrome. They say antibiotics that attack those bacteria can fix this.

They say another cause was bone marrow pieces that are dislodged by the disease and get caught in the lungs. The researchers treated this with asthma medication that widens the airways.

The researchers say all but three percent of patients recovered. Until now, acute chest syndrome killed about 15 percent of patients
who got it.

The lead researcher is at Children's Hospital Oakland in California. The study is in The New England Journal of Medicine.

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