Sickle Cell Anemia Treatment Cost in India

Sickle Cell Anemia is treated using Allogeneic bone marrow transplant, the cost of which starts from US$ 22,000 in India. The cost is subjective to many factors and can be more or less depending on your medical condition, availablity of the donor, experience of the surgeon and the type of hospital you choose.

Sickle Cell Anemia is a genetic disease that is inherited from the parents. Normal red blood cells are round and flexible and move easily throughout the body. Sickle Cell Anemia causes the red blood cells to be malformed (crescent moon or sickle-shaped), sticky and rigid. It inhibits the body’s ability to produce normal hemoglobin, the iron-rich substance that allows blood to carry oxygen from the lungs throughout the body.

Due to the malformation, the cells cannot carry sufficient oxygen to support the body’s needs and have a tendency to stick or clump together leading to poor blood flow and clots. A variety of symptoms and health complications can develop from Sickle Cell Anemia. Early detection and regular treatments can help to alleviate the pain and health problems related to the disease. 

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Causes of Sickle Cell Anemia

Sickle Cell Anemia is an inherited disease that is caused by a mutation in the gene which triggers the body to produce an abnormal form of hemoglobin known as hemoglobin S. Sickle Cell Anemia is caused by an autosomal recessive inheritance which means that both parents must carry the gene and pass it on to the child for the child to develop the disease.

If only one of the parents has the recessive gene, or if only one recessive gene is inherited, the offspring will have sickle cell trait. Patients with sickle cell trait produce both normal and sickle cell hemoglobin. People with sickle cell trait may have some sickle-shaped cells but typically don’t develop symptoms.

Parents with sickle cell trait, even if they do not have sickle cell anemia, can pass the mutated gene on to their children.

Diagnosis of Sickle Cell Anemia

The most common method for detecting Sickle Cell Anemia is a blood test which checks for the presence of hemoglobin S. The blood test can be performed at any age. The blood is screened and if hemoglobin S is detected additional tests are performed to determine if there are one or two sickle cell genes present.

Prior to birth, a sample of the amniotic fluid (the fluid that surrounds the baby in the womb) can be tested to detect sickle cell genes.

If a patient is known to have sickle cell anemia, doctors will routinely perform blood tests to monitor their red blood cell production. They may also perform additional tests to detect any health complications related to the disease.

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Symptoms of Sickle Cell Anemia

The symptoms of Sickle Cell Anemia vary greatly from patient to patient with existing symptoms worsening and new symptoms developing over time. Some of the most common symptoms of Sickle Cell Anemia include:

  • Anemia – In patients with sickle cell anemia the red blood cells are easily damaged and have an unusually short lifespan. Because the cells die quicker than the bone marrow can replace them the patient may develop a shortage of red blood cells (anemia). Without the proper amount of red blood cells, the body does not get sufficient oxygen to support its needs. The most common sign of anemia is fatigue, even with little or no exertion.
  • Pain – One of the most common symptoms of sickle cell are periods of pain. These episodes are referred to as crises. A crisis develops when the malformed red blood cells block the flow of blood through the small vessels that lead to the abdomen, chest, and joints. The severity of the pain varies from patient to patient and can last anywhere from hours to weeks. Some patients have very few crisis episodes during their lifetime while others may experience multiple episodes per year.

    Adolescents with sickle cell anemia may experience chronic pain of the bones and joints or other areas of the body due to damage caused by the disease.

  • Swelling – Swelling in the feet and/or hands occurs when the malformed cells stick together and block blood flow to these extremities. Tightness and pain are sometimes associated with the swelling.
  • Infections – Sickle cell anemia can cause damage to the spleen, the organ that helps fight infection. Because patients with sickle cell are more susceptible to infections, some of which may be life-threatening, doctors often give them antibiotics and vaccinations as a preventative measure.
  • Delayed Development – Due to the blood’s inability to carry the proper amount of oxygen and other nutrients to the body children with sickle cell often develop at a slower than normal rate. Late onset of puberty in teenagers with sickle cell has also been observed.
  • Vision Impairment – Clots caused by the malformed red blood cells sticking together can block the blood flow in the tiny vessels that supply blood to the eyes leading to permanent retina damage.

Treatment of Sickle Cell Anemia

The primary approach to treating sickle cell anemia is focused on relieving symptoms, preventing complications and avoiding crises. Children under the age of two years, that have sickle cell, should see a doctor often to monitor their condition.

Patients over the age of two should have a checkup at least once a year and should make an immediate appointment if symptoms or complications manifest.
Some of the treatments that are used to prevent crisis and other complications may include:

  • Medications – Medications to manage the pain and symptoms associated with sickle cell anemia include antibiotics to prevent infections and medications to manage pain are frequently given to patients to reduce risks and manage symptoms. Infants and children up to five years of age may be prescribed antibiotics continually to prevent infections which can be life threating to small children. Adults who have had pneumonia or have had the spleen removed may also be prescribed continual antibiotics.
  • Blood Transfusions – If the red blood cell count drops too low patients may be given a transfusion of healthy red blood cells to replace their own lost or damaged cells. Blood transfusion is a treatment, not a cure, and only alleviates the condition for a short period of time.
  • Bone Marrow Transplant – Sometimes called stem cell transplant, a bone marrow transplant is currently the only possibility of a cure for sickle cell anemia. During a bone marrow transplant, the existing bone marrow is first destroyed using either radiation or chemotherapy and then replaced with healthy donor cells. A bone marrow transplant requires a suitable donor match. Even when a match is present, it is a high-risk procedure that can lead to a variety of health complications and even death. Bone marrow transplants are not generally recommended for patients over the age of 16 as the risk of complications increases with age.

FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Is it possible to detect sickle cell anemia or sickle cell trait in an unborn child?
Yes, doctors can take a sample of the amniotic fluid, the fluid surrounding the baby in the womb, and test the fluid to determine if the baby has sickle cell trait or sickle cell anemia.

Amniotic tests can be performed as early as the first trimester. Chorionic villus sampling, a test to detect a variety of genetic problems, can also be performed early in pregnancy to detect sickle cell.

Q. How long can a person live with sickle cell anemia?
The average life expectancy of a patient with sickle cell anemia is 48 years for females and 42 years for males although there have been cases of patients who lived well past these ages.

Death typically occurs during a time of crisis and as a result of stroke caused by clotting of the blood or due to severe infections.

Q. How common is sickle cell anemia?
Sickle cell anemia is one of the most common genetic blood disorders in the world. Although it is possible to be present in any ethnic group it is most common in individuals of African heritage, 1 in 500, and Hispanic heritage, 1 in 1000. It is also commonly found in individuals of Arabian, Mediterranean and Indian descent.

Q. Can a woman with sickle cell anemia have a baby? Can a women with sickle cell anemia have a health pregnancy?
Woman with sickle cell anemia has a much higher rate of health complications for both themselves and the unborn child. Careful monitoring and care both prior to and during the pregnancy are essential to ensuring a healthy pregnancy and baby.

Patients that are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant should consult both their gynecologist and hematologist to determine the base course of treatment and care.

Q. Will someone with sickle cell anemia or sickle cell trait have a baby with sickle cell anemia?
Sickle cell anemia is caused by an autosomal recessive inheritance which means that both parents must carry the gene and pass it on to the child for the child to develop the disease.

If only one of the parents has the recessive gene, or if only one recessive gene is inherited, the offspring will have sickle cell trait but will not develop sickle cell anemia. Even if the disease does not develop, however, a person with sickle cell trait can pass that trait on to their children.

Q. Is there a cure for sickle cell anemia?
Currently, the only possibility of a cure for sickle cell anemia is a bone marrow transplant. A bone marrow transplant is generally only performed on patients under the age of 16 since the risks increase greatly as the patient ages.

A bone marrow transplant, even when the donor is an excellent match, is an extremely high-risk procedure which can lead to many complications including death.

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Vanshika Rawat

Written By Vanshika Rawat

Vanshika Rawat is an experienced content developer. She is very knowledgeable in the field of science and healthcare and has worked under brilliant scientists during her higher education. Vanshika obtained her degrees in Masters in Science and Bachelors in Science (Microbiology with Hons.) from renowned institutions - Panjab University and University of Delhi.

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