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Sickle cell disease (SCD) is an inherited hematological disorder that affects the hemoglobin content of red blood cells. In the United States, sickle cell disease occurs in approximately one in 350 live births. In Shelby County, Tennessee this rate has been found to be significantly higher at one in 287 live births.

Pain is one of the main symptoms of sickle cell disease. Acute painful sickle cell episodes occur unpredictably, often without clear precipitating factors. Pain can fluctuate in both intensity and duration, and can be excruciating. The majority of painful episodes are managed at home, with patients usually seeking hospital care only when the pain is uncontrolled or they have no access to appropriate pain management. By the time they are adults, sickle cell patients have often experienced many emergency department (ED) visits. When SCD patients arrive at the emergency department, they are often stigmatized and have difficulty getting the treatment they need.