Diagnosis of sickle cell disease and sickle cell trait can be done through blood testing, using a technique called hemoglobin electrophoresis. Blood tests can be done on children or adults. Many states have laws that require newborn babies to be tested for sickle cell disease before they leave the hospital after birth. Pregnant women can also choose to have their unborn babies tested for the presence of sickle cell trait or sickle cell disease.
Hemoglobin electrophoresis—A small blood sample is taken and sent to a laboratory where the percentage of normal and abnormal hemoglobin is measured.
Sickledex test—A small blood sample is taken and sent to a laboratory. In the laboratory, a substance called a deoxygenating agent is added to the blood sample. If the deoxygenating agent causes at least 25% of the red blood cells to assume a sickle shape, the test is considered positive for the presence of either sickle cell trait or sickle cell disease. Hemoglobin electrophoresis will need to be done to distinguish between sickle cell trait and sickle cell disease.
Amniocentesis—In this test, ultrasound is used to locate the fetus and a pocket of the fluid that surrounds the growing fetus. A long, thin needle is used to remove a small amount of amniotic fluid, which is sent to a laboratory for mutation-specific DNA testing.
Facts about sickle cell disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/sicklecell/facts.html. Updated September 27, 2012. Accessed July 1, 2013.
How is sickle cell disease diagnosed? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sca/diagnosis. Updated September 28, 2012. Accessed July 1, 2013.
Sickle cell disease. Nemours Kids Health website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/sickle-cell-anemia.html. Updated September 2012. Accessed July 1, 2013.
Sickle cell disease in adults and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T902929/Sickle-cell-disease-in-adults-and-adolescents. Updated October 4, 2016. Accessed October 5, 2016.
Sickle cell disease in infants and children. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T902928/Sickle-cell-disease-in-infants-and-children. Updated September 20, 2016. Accessed October 5, 2016.
Sickle cell trait. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/sicklecell/traits.html. Updated September 27, 2012. Accessed July 1, 2013.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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