Non-drug Treatments for Sickle Cell Disease
A blood transfusion is used to provide a person with donated blood via intravenous injection. Different blood components can be delivered through this procedure. In sickle cell disease patients, a blood transfusion is used to provide normal red blood cells to the patient’s body. Red blood cell transfusions help lessen anemia and reduce the blood’s viscosity, allowing it to flow more freely and ease disease symptoms and prevent complications.
The supply of extra oxygen with oxygen therapy may be beneficial for some patients with sickle cell disease. However, the use of oxygen therapy for the disorder is controversial because high levels of oxygen are known to suppress the formation of new red blood cells. This can worsen the anemia that is seen in these patients. Oxygen therapy is, therefore, only recommended when oxygen levels drop below a critical threshold.
Stem Cell Transplant
A stem cell transplant, or replacing the stem (precursor) cells that give rise to red blood cells, is the only treatment currently available with the potential to cure sickle cell disease. Stem cells can be obtained from a donor’s bone marrow (the site within the bones where stem cells are produced), peripheral blood (blood in the veins), or umbilical cord (the cord that transports oxygen and nutrients from a mother to her baby) at the time of birth.