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Health Information Center

Screening for Sickle Cell Disease

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:

Condition InDepth

Screening for Sickle Cell Disease

The purpose of screening is early diagnosis and treatment. Screening tests are given to people who do not have symptoms, but who may be at high risk for certain diseases or conditions.

Screening Tests

The same tests used to diagnose sickle cell disease can be used to screen for it before symptoms begin. These tests are:

Fetal DNA based testing for hemoglobin problems —This test can be done during the first trimester of pregnancy. It may test tissue from the placenta or fluid around the baby.

Hemoglobin electrophoresis —A small blood sample is taken and sent to a lab. The normal and abnormal hemoglobin are measured.

Sickledex test —A small blood sample is taken and sent to a lab. It looks at how many red blood cells have the sickle shape. A positive test means a person has either sickle cell trait or sickle cell disease.

Amniocentesis —The fluid that surrounds the baby in the womb is tested. A small sample of the fluid is removed with a needle and sent to a lab.

Screening Guidelines

Many states require that newborn babies be screened for sickle cell disease before they leave the hospital. Parents can also have their unborn babies tested. Adults can also be screened to find out if they carry the sickle cell trait.


  • Pinto VM, Balocco M, et al. Sickle cell disease: a review for the internist. Intern Emerg Med. 2019;14(7):1051-1064.
  • Sickle cell disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/sicklecell/index.html.
  • Sickle cell disease. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/sickle-cell-anemia.html.
  • Sickle cell disease in adults and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/sickle-cell-disease-in-adults-and-adolescents.
  • Sickle cell disease in infants and children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/sickle-cell-disease-in-infants-and-children
  • What is sickle cell disease? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/sickle-cell-disease.


  • Kari Kassir, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.