Study Challenges Assumptions About Sickle Cell Trait and Heart Health

Heart failure is no more common in individuals with sickle cell trait than in the general population, a new study has found.

Sickle cell trait (SCT) occurs when an individual inherits one copy of the gene that causes sickle cell disease. SCT is not a disease, but it has been associated with an increased rate of blood clots, kidney disease, and pregnancy-related complications.

“We conducted this study because there is a lack of information about the heart structure and function of people with SCT and their risk of developing heart failure,” said the study's co-lead author Natalie Bello, MD, MPH, of Columbia University Medical Center.

In the study, Dr. Bello and colleagues analyzed data from more than 15,000 African Americans – 1,216 with SCT – and determined that SCT is not independently associated with an increased risk of heart failure.

Heart failure was observed in 7.6 percent of the SCT carriers compared with 8.6 percent of the non-carriers. There were also no significant differences in cardiac structure and function, including no observed differences in abnormalities of left ventricular size, thickness, or systolic function.

This article was adapted from a press release issued by the American Society of Hematology. The research was published in the journal Blood.