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Abdominal crisis in sickle cell anaemia

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

Authoring team

These crises are characterised by severe abdominal pain with the signs of an acute abdomen; they are probably due to sequestration of sickled cells in the circulation of the gut.

Some common conditions seen frequently as acute abdominal pain in SCD includes:

  • vaso-occlusion – in the mesenteric circulation
  • cholelithiasis
  • cholangitis
  • mesenteric/colonic ischaemia
  • hepatic infarction/abscess/sequestration
  • intra-abdominal abscess
  • splenic infarction
  • renal or hepatic vein thrombosis (1)

Management of acute abdomen

  • appropriate examinations should be carried out in patients who presents with an acute abdomen e.g. - blood cultures, serum amylase, abdominal ultrasound, abdominal X-ray and CT
  • acute abdominal pain due to SCD is managed conservatively in most cases,
  • early involvement of the surgical team should be considered
  • laparascopic cholecystectomy is recommended for treatment of symptomatic gallstones (1).


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