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Splenic Sequestration Crisis in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

What is splenic sequestration crisis (SCC)?

SCC is a complication of sickle cell disease (SCD). During SCC, sickled red blood cells (RBC) get stuck in your child's spleen. This causes the spleen to swell. It also decreases the number of RBCs in your child's body (severe anemia). SCC may be triggered by an infection. SCC is a life-threatening emergency.

What are the signs and symptoms of SCC?

  • Sudden weakness
  • Pale lips or skin
  • Fast breathing
  • Your child's spleen feels larger than usual
  • Being very thirsty
  • Pain in the left upper abdomen
  • A heartbeat that is faster than usual
  • Poor feeding or fussiness in babies

How is SCC treated?

Your child will need to be treated and monitored closely in the hospital. He or she may need any of the following:

  • Medicines may be given to decrease pain.
  • A blood transfusion may be given to increase your child's level of healthy red blood cells. Your child may need to have regular blood transfusions to prevent another SCC.
  • IV fluids treat dehydration and may help prevent sickling of RBCs.
  • Oxygen may be given if your child's blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. Ask your child's healthcare provider before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing.
  • Surgery may be needed to remove your child's spleen. This will help prevent SCC from happening again.

How can I help prevent SCC?

  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Your child may need medicine to help his or her body make red blood cells that are less likely to sickle. This may help prevent SCC.
  • Give your child liquids as directed. Liquids can help prevent dehydration. Dehydration can increase your child's risk for SCC. Ask how much liquid to give your child each day and which liquids are best for him or her.
  • Feel your child's spleen if he or she has abdominal pain, yellow skin or eyes, or a swollen abdomen. Your child's healthcare provider will show you how to feel your child's spleen. The spleen will get bigger if RBCs are stuck there. Seek care immediately if your child's spleen feels larger than normal. Early treatment can prevent more problems or damage to your child's spleen.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) for any of the following:

  • Your child has trouble breathing.
  • Your child loses consciousness or cannot be woken.
  • Your child is lethargic (moves very little and is extremely weak).

When should I call my child's healthcare provider?

  • Your child's symptoms return.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

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