The changing face of homozygous sickle cell disease: 102 patients over 60 years.
Serjeant GR., Serjeant BE., Mason KP., Hambleton IR., Fisher C., Higgs DR.
Earlier reports on homozygous sickle cell (SS) disease have been biased by severely affected cases. The Jamaican clinic which seeks to avoid such bias has 102 patients surviving beyond 60 years. The objective of this study was to examine the features of elderly cases and assess factors determining survival and the behaviour of this disease with advancing age. A retrospective review of all cases and prospective assessment in survivors was conducted at The Sickle Cell Clinic at the University of the West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica previously operated by the MRC Laboratories. All patients with SS disease born prior to December 31, 1943 who would, by January 2004, have passed their 60th birthday were traced and their current status ascertained. The molecular and clinical features were assessed and observations on the clinical behaviour of the disease and of haematology and biochemistry are presented. Of the 102 patients, 58 had died, four had emigrated and 40 were alive, resident in Jamaica and aged 60-87 years. Survival was associated with female gender and higher foetal haemoglobin but not with alpha-thalassaemia or beta-globin haplotype. A tendency to familial clustering among elderly survivors did not reach statistical significance. Painful crises ameliorated with age and there was a benign course in pregnancy. Mean haemoglobin levels fell with age and were generally associated with rising creatinine levels indicating the importance of renal failure. Elderly survivors present some features of intrinsic mildness but also manifest age-related amelioration of painful crises and falling haemoglobin levels from progressive renal damage.