Sickle cell disease (SCD) is the most common inherited blood disorders in the United States. The disease predominantly affects African Americans with 1 out of every 365 individuals born with SCD. The disease is characterized by vascular inflammation and vaso-occlusion leading to numerous complications and multi-organ dysfunction. Previous studies have shown women with SCD tend to outlive their male counterparts. Other than the increased life expectancy, sex-based clinical outcome differences in SCD remain largely unknown. To better characterize sex-based differences in SCD, we assessed sociodemographic characteristics, pain, treatment characteristics, laboratory measures and complications among males and females currently enrolled in the Sickle Cell Disease Implementation Consortium (SCDIC) registry.


The SCDIC consists of eight academic and comprehensive SCD centers, and one data-coordinating center that received funding from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute to improve outcomes for individuals with SCD. Participants were eligible for the enrollment in the SCDIC registry if they were 15 to 45 years of age and had a confirmed diagnosis of SCD. Participants were excluded if they had sickle cell trait or had a successful bone marrow transplant. Enrolled participants completed surveys. Data were also abstracted from the participants' medical records.

Data were entered into a REDCap database and analyzed using SAS version 9.4 (SAS Institute; Cary, NC). Categorical variables were presented as frequencies and percentages, continuous variables were presented as medians and interquartile ranges (IQR) or means and standard deviations. Categorical variables were analyzed using Chi-Square or Fisher exact tests when appropriate. Continuous variables were compared using the Mann-Whitney U test or independent sample t-tests depending on the distribution. A two-sided p-value less than 0.05 was deemed significant.


A total of 2,124 participants were included in the study. The mean (SD) age of our participants was 27.8 (7.9) years. Almost all (95.6%) were Africa American, female (56%) and had hemoglobin SS (68.2%) SCD genotype. More males (55.4 % vs. 44.6%, p <0.0001) were taking hydroxyurea. Females had significantly worse reports of pain frequency and severity (p=0.0002 and <0.0001 respectively), more vaso-occlusive episodes (p=0.01) and a higher occurrence of 3 or more hospital admissions in the past year (30.9 % vs. 25.5, p= 0.03). Males had significantly more skin ulcers and respiratory, musculoskeletal, genitourinary and cardiovascular complications while females had more anxiety, depression and autoimmune conditions. Males also had significantly higher creatinine, blood urea nitrogen, albumin and liver enzymes (alkaline phosphatase, aspartate and alanine aminotransferases). Females had higher fetal hemoglobin levels with and without hydroxyurea use. There were no statistical differences in ethnicity, marital and employment status.


Key differences in SCD presentation and occurrence of complications exist among males and females. Females had higher rates of depression and anxiety while males had more chronic end-organ complications that are life threatening. Our findings emphasize the need for stratification of data analysis by sex in future SCD studies.


Hankins:Global Blood Therapeutics: Consultancy, Research Funding; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: Honoraria, Research Funding; LINKS Incorporate Foundation: Research Funding; American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology: Honoraria; MJH Life Sciences: Consultancy, Patents & Royalties; UptoDate: Consultancy; Novartis: Research Funding. Treadwell:UpToDate: Honoraria; Global Blood Therapeutics: Consultancy. King:Tioma Therapuetics: Consultancy; WUGEN: Current equity holder in private company; RiverVest: Consultancy; Celgene: Consultancy; Cell Works: Consultancy; Incyte: Consultancy; Magenta Therapeutics: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Bioline: Consultancy; Novimmune: Research Funding; Amphivena Therapeutics: Research Funding. Gordeuk:CSL Behring: Consultancy, Research Funding; Global Blood Therapeutics: Consultancy, Research Funding; Imara: Research Funding; Ironwood: Research Funding; Novartis: Consultancy. Kanter:bluebird bio, inc: Consultancy, Honoraria; SCDAA Medical and Research Advisory Board: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; AGIOS: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Novartis: Consultancy; Sanofi: Consultancy; Medscape: Honoraria; Guidepoint Global: Honoraria; GLG: Honoraria; Jeffries: Honoraria; Cowen: Honoraria; Wells Fargo: Honoraria; NHLBI Sickle Cell Advisory Board: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; BEAM: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees. Glassberg:Eli Lilly and Company: Research Funding; Pfizer: Research Funding; Global Blood Therapeutics: Consultancy. Shah:Bluebird Bio: Consultancy; Novartis: Consultancy, Research Funding, Speakers Bureau; Global Blood Therapeutics: Consultancy, Research Funding, Speakers Bureau; CSL Behring: Consultancy; Alexion: Speakers Bureau.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.

Sign in via your Institution