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New report offers first look at sickle cell disease hospitalizations in 10 years

The first Federal analysis in a decade of sickle cell disease hospitalizations shows that admissions of adults remained stable from 1997 to 2004. In 2004, approximately 83,000 hospital stays were for adults and 30,000 were for children. Of the latter, 2,000 stays were for infants, according to a new report issued by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Sickle cell disease, an inherited blood disease mostly affecting African Americans, causes red blood cells to lose their shape, block circulation, and cause organ damage. The illness has no common cure and patients with periodic pain are often treated with pain medications.

The study found:

  • Patients spent about 5 days in the hospital, which cost facilities an average of $6,223 per stay. Total hospital costs were nearly $500 million overall in 2004.
  • Medicaid paid for 65 percent of the stays for patients hospitalized primarily for sickle cell disease, Medicare paid 13 percent, private insurers were responsible for 15 percent, and 4 percent were uninsured.
  • The number of people with sickle cell disease who died while hospitalized in 2004 was relatively low—699 adults and 47 children. In-hospital deaths for children remained low and constant from 1994 to 2004.

For more information, see Sickle Cell Disease Patients in U.S. Hospitals, 2004, HCUP Statistical Brief # 21 at The report uses statistics from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, a database of hospital inpatient stays that is nationally representative of all short-term, non-Federal hospitals. The data are drawn from hospitals that comprise 90 percent of all discharges in the United States and include all patients, regardless of insurance type as well as the uninsured.

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