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Sickle Cell Anemia

New Jersey Sickle Cell Anemia Lawyers

Sickle cell disease involves a group of inherited blood disorders in which red blood cells assume an abnormal, rigid sickle shape which is where the disease gets its name. This causes a continuous red blood cell shortage which can result in interruption of blood flow and prevent oxygen from reaching tissue and organs. Due to their irregular shape, they become stuck when traveling through small blood vessels, decreasing the flow of blood through the body. When this occurs, pain and infection are common as well is risk of muscle, bone and organ damage. There is even a strong risk of death. In a common form of sickle cell disease known as sickle cell anemia, there is a shortage of red blood cells circulating through the body (anemia), because sickle cells die prematurely. Unfortunately, sickle cell disease is considered a lifelong disease in which there is no universal cure.

According to the Center for Disease Control, the sickle cell trait is genetic, passed on from parent to child. A simple blood test either before conception or during pregnancy can determine whether either parent carries a sickle cell trait. People with sickle cell trait don’t have sickle cell disease or exhibit any signs of the disorder, but they can pass the gene for the disease to their children. If a child receives a sickle cell gene from one parent and a normal gene from the other parent, he or she will carry the sickle cell trait with generally no symptoms or signs of the disease. However, if both parents carry the trait, there’s a 25% chance that a child will have sickle cell disease.

Prenatal Diagnosis of Sickle Cell Disease

From all pregnant women seeking to identify risk factors for genetic disorders, a careful history should be taken. Information should include the health status and presence of genetic disorders or carrier status of parents and relatives, as well as inquiry into ethnic background. If either parent is at increased risk for sickle cell trait based on their genetic background, a simple blood test called hemoglobin electrophoresis should be offered testing for the presence of sickle cell trait.

According to the National Institute of Health, sickle cell disease is most common in people whose families come from Africa, South or Central America (especially Panama), Caribbean islands, Mediterranean countries (such as Turkey, Greece, and Italy), India, and Saudi Arabia. Therefore testing for sickle cell trait should be offered to all African Americans and Hispanics, along with individuals of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern or Indian descent. Diagnostic testing with Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS) or Amniocentesis can then be performed.

Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS)

At 10 to 13 weeks gestation, a small piece of placental tissue (chorionic villi) is taken from the uterus. The tissue is then analyzed for genetic abnormalities, including sickle cell disease. CVS allows medical providers to confirm the presence of many genetic abnormalities, including sickle cell disease. It is therefore considered a diagnostic procedure. While CVS does carry some slight risk of miscarriage, with the use of modern methods, this risk has been significantly reduced.

Amniocentesis

A thin needle is inserted to get a small sample of amniotic fluid, which surrounds the fetus in the womb. The fluid is then analyzed for genetic abnormalities, including sickle cell disease. This test allows medical providers to confirm the presence of many genetic abnormalities, including sickle cell disease. It is therefore considered a diagnostic procedure. While amniocentesis does carry some slight risk of miscarriage, with the use of modern methods, this risk has been significantly reduced.

Early diagnosis is vitally important because babies with sickle cell disease are at high risk for complications and illnesses. Usually, babies begin to show complications for the disease around five months of age. The symptoms and severity vary with each patient. Some of the complications include:

• Swelling of the feet and hands\
• Episodes of severe pain from the constriction of blood through the body
• Anemia, due to the lack of blood cells
• Frequent bacterial infections. The CDC reports that pneumonia is the leading cause of death among infants and children with sickle cell disease.

Sickle cell disease can vary greatly in severity, with symptoms ranging from very mild to severe and debilitating. Children with sickle cell disease require heightened attention from their parents and medical providers so that serious illness can be prevented or lessened. Medical monitoring is required over the course of such children’s lifetime, and in-patient hospitalizations are typically required on an annual basis. The best course of treatment also varies among patients. The only cure for sickle cell disease is a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, according to the CDC.

Over the course of that child’s lifetime, the expenses involved in making sure a child with sickle cell disease gets the best medical care possible can be enormous. There may be a significant difference in the treatment and services that private medical insurance, a public school system, or such programs as Medicaid will cover. If your child has sickle cell disease, and you did not learn of this diagnosis in time to exercise a choice as to whether to continue the pregnancy, you may be entitled to compensation. Proceeding with a claim may be the only way to ensure your child has the financial resources to access the best available care.

The New Jersey Supreme Court has held that if a prenatal misdiagnosis claim is established, the negligent medical provider must provide compensation for the extraordinary expenses related to the child’s condition over the child’s lifetime. In addition, compensation must be provided to the parents for any emotional injury experienced in parenting a child with special needs.

If your child suffers from sickle cell disease and has been the victim of medical malpractice, call an experienced attorney for a free consultation at the New Jersey law firm of O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble. You can simply Contact us online or call 1-908-928-9200 or 1-800-586-5817 for a free no obligation consultation.