Skip to Content

Sickle Cell Prep

What is it?

A sickle cell prep is a screening test done on blood to find if sickle cell trait or sickle cell disease is present. Sickle cell trait or disease happens when an abnormal hemoglobin (heem-uh-glo-bun) called hemoglobin S is in the blood. Everyone has two copies of the hemoglobin gene. If only one copy is hemoglobin S, you have sickle cell trait. If both copies are hemoglobin S, you have sickle cell anemia. Sickle cell disease is also called sickle cell anemia (uh-nee-mee-uh). Anemia is a condition where the number of red blood cells and the amount of oxygen carrying hemoglobin are less than normal. This condition is called sickle cell because the normally round red blood cells take on the shape of sickles when oxygen is reduced.

Why do I need it?

Sickle cell trait and sickle cell disease are hereditary conditions found mostly in Africans and African Americans. Hereditary means the problem runs in the family. If the screening test is positive for sickle cells, another test is done to tell if the trait or the disease is present. Sickle cell trait usually has no symptoms. Sickle cell disease shows up by 6 months of age. For more information, ask your caregiver for the CareNotes™ handouts about sickle cell crises and Hemoglobin Electrophoresis. Caregivers will explain the test and why you need it.

How do I get ready for the test?

Your caregiver will tell you when to have your blood test done. The blood test may be done before or after eating. You may need to stop taking some medicines before the test. Ask your caregiver if you should wait until after your blood is taken to take your normal medicines.

How is the specimen collected?

A caregiver will put a wide rubber strap around your arm and tighten it. Your skin will be cleaned with alcohol. A small needle attached to a special test tube will be put into a vein in your arm or hand. The tube has suction to pull the blood into it. When the tube is full, the rubber strap, needle and tube are removed. The caregiver will press a piece of cotton where the needle was removed. You may be asked to hold the cotton on the site for a few minutes to help stop the bleeding. Tape may then be put over the cotton on your arm.

What do I do after the test?

You may remove the tape and cotton in about 20 to 30 minutes. Call your caregiver to get the results of your test. Your caregiver will explain what your test results mean for you. Follow the instructions of your caregiver.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about your lab tests. You can then discuss the results with your caregivers. Work with them to decide what care may be used to treat you. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.