Eighteen of 384 patients entered on the Brent sickle cell disease register died between 1974 and 1989, a mortality of one per 128 years of follow up. Two children died from acute splenic sequestration and a third died from fulminant pneumococcal septicaemia: none was taking prophylactic penicillin. Acute chest syndrome was the cause of death in eight young adults and one child. Three deaths occurred after surgery. Cerebrovascular accidents contributed to the cause of death in three cases and there were two sudden unexplained deaths. Ten of the deaths occurred at home or within 24 hours of admission to hospital. Post mortem examinations were made in 14 cases, but the histological appearances of acute chest syndrome were often not recognised. In most cases for whom information was available, the cause of death (chest syndrome, pneumococcal sepsis, postoperative complications) could have been prevented.
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