Excess deaths among adults with sickle cell disease in 2020 compared to prior years

Susanna Curtis, Billett Henny, Starrels Joanna, Jaime Betancourt, Merin Thomas, Leena Vattappally, Andrew Crouch, Minniti Caterina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


In 2020, there was a 20% increase in excess deaths in the USA due to COVID infections but also to changes in the healthcare system due to the pandemic. We hypothesized that people living with sickle cell disease (SCD) may be vulnerable to these changes as SCD can lead to rapid decompensation. We examined all deaths of people with SCD at our center in 2020. Cause of death was determined, clinical variables, and healthcare utilization, and the presence of COVID infection, sepsis, and acute organ failure during the death event was obtained from the electronic medical record. Deaths in 2020 were compared to deaths in 2017–2019. In 2020, deaths increase 244% (22 vs 9), but acute or previous COVID infections were identified in only 36% of 2020 deaths. People who died in 2020 were more likely to have developed acute organ failure during the death event (70.6% vs 21.1%, p = 0.003) compared to prior years. They were also more likely to have a history of stroke and more frequent hematology clinic visits. Deaths in 2020 doubled compared to prior years and COVID infection could not account for all of this excess mortality. People who died in 2020 may have had more severe disease as suggested by having more clinic visits and higher rates of stroke and were more likely to develop organ failure during the death event. This demonstrates that people with SCD may be especially vulnerable to delays in care. Larger multicenter studies should be conducted to examine this further.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-44
Number of pages4
JournalAnnals of Hematology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • COVID-19
  • Cause of death
  • Hematology
  • Mortality
  • Sickle cell disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology


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