-Author name in bold denotes the presenting author
-Asterisk * with author name denotes a Non-ASH member
Clinically Relevant Abstract denotes an abstract that is clinically relevant.

PhD Trainee denotes that this is a recommended PHD Trainee Session.

Ticketed Session denotes that this is a ticketed session.

3105 COVID-19 Infection and Outcomes at a Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center

Program: Oral and Poster Abstracts
Session: 114. Hemoglobinopathies, Excluding Thalassemia: Clinical and Epidemiological: Poster III
Hematology Disease Topics & Pathways:
Sickle Cell Disease, Adults, Epidemiology, Workforce, Health Outcomes Research, Hemoglobinopathies, Diseases, SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19, Infectious Diseases, Study Population
Monday, December 13, 2021, 6:00 PM-8:00 PM

Fuad El Rassi, MD1, Abeer N. Abouyabis, MD2, Ross M. Fasano, MD3* and Morgan L. McLemore4

1Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology, Emory University School of Medicine and Georgia Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center at Grady Health System, Atlanta, GA
2Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA
3Center for Transfusion and Cellular Therapies, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA
4Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA

Introduction: The Grady Comprehensive Sickle Cell (SC) center is the largest adult sickle cell center in the United States (US) and has the first 24/7 acute care unit for management of sickle cell vaso-occlusive events (VOE). In 2019, the center provided 3077 sickle cell outpatient visits and 3695 acute care visits. When the COVID-19 pandemic reached the US, the center had a precipitous drop in the number of both outpatient clinic and acute care visits as state regulations for lockdown were passed. This report follows all the COVID-19 cases at a single adult center for sickle cell disease in one year.

Methods: The clinical database has been tracking COVID-19 cases reported. Out of a total of 1343 patients, 55 patients contracted COVID-19 and were tracked in the clinical database with IRB approval.

Results: Of the 55 patients with COVID-19, 28 were female and 27 were male. By genotype, 64% of patients were SS, 31% were SC and 5% were Sβ+ thalassemia. 35% of patient were on hydroxyurea for disease modification with the majority of them being of the SS genotype and 31% had elevated fetal hemoglobin determined by a percentage fetal hemoglobin above 5% by hemoglobin electrophoresis. Chronic pain (defined as patients experiencing daily pain episodes for more than 4 days a week for the last 3 months) and calculation of daily morphine equivalents were reported in clinic follow-up and the narcotic database utilization. 47% of the patients had chronic pain and the median morphine equivalents was 90 mg daily (45-225mg).

The rate of emergency department (ED) visits or hospitalizations for the sickle cell patients with COVID-19 was 80%. 49% of the SC patients' visits were related to VOE and 27% related to COVID-19 primarily. 20% of SC patients with COVID-19 were not seen in any emergency setting or required any hospitalization.

The COVID-19 signs and symptoms experienced by the patients were as follows: 58% had pain as the main presenting symptom, followed by cough and fever (40%), dyspnea (31%), and pneumonia with chest x-ray evidence (25%). 2 patients developed acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and were intubated, and 2 patients died. 29% of the patients had lung findings on imaging and 16 of 55 patients required treatment with the use of Remdesivir in 9, dexamethasone in 8 and red cell products in 7 of the 16 patients. The 2 patients who died had both presented with COVID-19 infection in June and July 2020 respectively. One patient had presented in June 2020 with VOE and was found to have bilateral lung opacities but was asymptomatic and was discharged home to return few days later with clinical picture of multi-organ failure for which a red cell erythrocytapheresis was attempted. The second patient had presented in July 2020 with COVID-19 pneumonia and was treated with Remdesivir and convalescent plasma with development of multi-organ failure and ARDS.


Several reports were published regarding the rate of COVID-19 related mortality and morbidity in sickle cell disease. The Grady comprehensive sickle cell center experience differs in the fact that 16 out of 55 patients who had contracted COVID-19 required treatment and 2 of those 16 had died. In fact, the deaths occurred early in the course of the pandemic in June and July 2020 when 20 total cases were diagnosed (from March to Septemeber 2020). The remaining 35 cases registered zero deaths (October 2020 to March 2021) with the rate of complicated COVID-19 hospitalizations decreasing with better treatment available. In addition, the timeline for the COVID-19 cases reported fits the population timeline of 2 peaks respectively happening in the summer of 2020 and the Winter of 2021. During the initial peak, we have noted a decrease in the number of clinic and acute care visits respectively. This was anticipated given the statewide lockdown that was implemented. To circumvent that, the center adopted virtual visits to deliver healthcare needs. This measure has aided in protecting patients against COVID-19. Additionally, it is interesting that despite the second peak in the winter of 2021, there were no reported deaths among the patients who developed COVID-19. This finding can suggest that despite the concern for morbidity and mortality of sickle cell patients, their diligence and awareness to stay home during the pandemic has proven crucial in reducing morbidity and mortality and the option of virtual visits for healthcare delivery was key and should be utilized further in sickle cell care.

Disclosures: El Rassi: Cyclerion: Research Funding; Novartis: Research Funding; Pfizer: Research Funding; Novartis: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Global Blood Therapeutics: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; bluebird bio: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees.

*signifies non-member of ASH