Can The Sickle Cell Trait Cause Problems During Surgery?

My daughter carries the sickle cell anemia trait. I have heard there can be some problems if she were to need oxygen during surgery or something like that. Is this true?

Not exactly, but you’re in the ballpark. Most experts do not consider the sickle cell trait to be a disease. It cannot cause or change into sickle cell anemia.

While the sickle cell trait may cause some problems, they are very rare. They only occur under exceptional circumstances in which the oxygen available for breathing is very limited, such as at high altitudes. Substantial overexertion in extremely hot weather might also cause symptoms, such as pain or breathing difficulty. Again, this rarely happens.

It also appears that people with the sickle cell trait have a slightly increased risk of having periodic bouts of hematuria, or blood in the urine. Future research may teach us more about the risks of having the sickle cell trait. But according to current information, it seems to cause minimal health problems, if any.

Sickle cell anemia is an inherited disease that affects hemoglobin — a protein in red blood cells that delivers oxygen from the lungs to the body. Because of the abnormal hemoglobin, the red cells don’t get enough oxygen and they transform from their usual doughnut shape into the crescent shape of a sickle (a farming implement).

The “sickled” cells keep the blood from flowing smoothly through the body, especially through the tiniest blood vessels. This may lead to a lack of oxygen that may be either localized or widespread, and can cause damage to internal organs as well as arms and legs. Sickle cell anemia symptoms vary widely in severity. They usually occur in episodes or crises. Fatigue, pain, weakness and shortness of breath are among the many symptoms.

The only way a person can get sickle cell anemia is by inheriting one sickle cell gene from each parent. A child who inherits an abnormal gene from one parent and a healthy gene from the other will have sickle cell trait, not the disease.

The main concern with your daughter will probably be if and when she has children. There is a chance that she might have children with sickle cell anemia if the children’s father also has the trait or disease. When one parent has a trait and the other parent does not, the children will not get sickle cell anemia. However, they could inherit the trait.

The information provided on Health Search Online is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.