Hospital Visits Stack Up for Sickle Cell Patients

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Updated: 4/21 11:30 am

April 7, 2010 -- Hospital and emergency room visits can quickly add up for young people with sickle cell disease.

A new study shows that people with sickle cell disease average 2.5 hospital or emergency room visits per year, and young adults are more likely to require acute care or repeat hospitalization.

Sickle cell disease is an inherited disease that affects the red blood cells and causes periods of severe pain that often require a visit to the emergency room and/or hospitalization. Despite this common trait of sickle cell disease, researchers say little is known about how often people with the disease use emergency room or hospital resources.

In the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers looked at emergency room visits and hospitalization rates of 21,112 people with sickle cell disease in eight states from 2005 to 2006.

The results showed there were a total of 109,344 visits, with an average of 1.52 hospitalizations and 1.08 emergency room visits per patient per year.

Researchers found the rate of emergency room visits and hospitalizations was highest among people aged 18 to 30; they had an average of 3.61 visits per year and rates decreased throughout middle and older age.

Other findings of the study include:

  • People with public insurance had more acute care visits than people with private insurance (3.22 vs. 1.76 visits per year). People without insurance had an average of 1.42 visits per year.
  • About 29% of people with sickle cell disease had no hospitalizations or emergency room visits; 16.9% had three or more per year.
  • One in three patients who were hospitalized were rehospitalized within 30 days. Rehospitalization rates were highest among the 18- to 30-year-old age group, with about 41% of all hospitalizations leading to rehospitalization for sickle cell-related care within 30 days. 

“Rates of acute care utilization and rates of return for acute care are both high in the sickle cell population, writes David C. Brousseau, MD, of the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. “This is especially true for young adults, who may be particularly at risk as their disease worsens and they transition from pediatric to adult care.”

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