On World Sickle Cell Day, the Sickle Cell Society has urged people to donate blood, which is an essential part of the lifelong treatment program for people with sickle cell disorder. Regular blood transfusions can reduce the risk of strokes and treat other complications. However, long-term use of blood transfusions can result in iron overload, which can result in liver damage. Patients are treated with iron-removing drugs called chelators. Diagnosing iron overload earlier can help to ensure prompt treatment.
To help address the need for ethnically-matched blood, the Sickle Cell Society has launched a Give Blood Send Love program in the UK, targeting Black heritage communities. Blood from people with African and Caribbean Heritage is less likely to be rejected in patients who have frequent blood transfusions, plus some blood types are more commonly found in those of African and Caribbean heritage.
Diagnosing and treating iron overload is important in minimizing the risks of liver damage. Historically measured via liver biopsy, magnetic resonance imaging is now used to quantify the volume of iron in the liver in a non-invasive, pain-free alternative. This is measured annually in the presence of blood transfusions and the need for iron chelation therapy to help manage and maintain safe levels of liver tissue iron concentration.
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