Sickle Cell Disease: Splenic Sequestration

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Topic Overview

What is splenic sequestration?

Splenic sequestration is a problem with the spleen that can happen in people who have sickle cell disease .

Splenic sequestration happens when a lot of sickled red blood cells become trapped in the spleen. The spleen can enlarge, get damaged, and not work as it should. When the spleen doesn't work well, a person is more likely to have serious, life-threatening infections with certain types of bacteria.

If splenic sequestration happens suddenly, it can be a life-threatening emergency.

Who is affected by it?

This condition is more common in infants and young children who have sickle cell disease. It may follow a respiratory infection.

In older children and adults, the spleen often does not work because of years of damage from sickled cells.

What are the symptoms?

Splenic sequestration causes sudden and severe anemia , with symptoms of sudden weakness, pale lips, rapid breathing, excessive thirst, belly pain, and rapid heartbeat.

If you have a baby or young child who has sickle cell disease, you will check your child's spleen to see if it's larger than normal. Your child's doctor can show you how to check for it. A suddenly enlarged spleen requires emergency medical care.

Related Information


Other Works Consulted

  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health (2002). The Management of Sickle Cell Disease (NIH Publication No. 02-2117). Available online:


ByHealthwise Staff

Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine

Specialist Medical Reviewer Martin Steinberg, MD - Hematology

Current as ofFebruary 20, 2015