Which Febrile Children With Sickle Cell Disease Need a Chest X-Ray?


  • The authors have no relevant financial information or potential conflicts to disclose.



Controversy exists regarding which febrile children with sickle cell disease (SCD) should receive a chest x-ray (CXR). Our goal is to provide data informing the decision of which febrile children with SCD presenting to the emergency department (ED) require a CXR to evaluate for acute chest syndrome (ACS).


Retrospective chart review of children ages 3 months to 21 years with SCD presenting to the ED at one of two academic children's hospitals with fever ≥38.5°C between January 1, 2010, and December 31, 2012. Demographic characteristics, respiratory symptoms, and laboratory results were abstracted. The primary outcome was the presence of ACS. Binary recursive partitioning was performed to determine predictive factors for a diagnosis of ACS.


A total of 185 (10%) of 1,837 febrile ED visits met ACS criteria. The current National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) consensus criteria for obtaining a CXR (shortness of breath, tachypnea, cough, or rales) identified 158 (85%) of ACS cases, while avoiding 825 CXRs. Obtaining a CXR in children with NHLBI criteria or chest pain and in children without those symptoms but with a white blood cell (WBC) count ≥18.75 × 109/L or a history of ACS identified 181 (98%), while avoiding 430 CXRs.


Children with SCD presenting to the ED with fever and shortness of breath, tachypnea, cough, rales, or chest pain should receive a CXR due to high ACS rates. A higher WBC count or history of ACS in a child without one of those symptoms may suggest the need for a CXR. Prospective validation of these criteria is needed.