Without early initiation of disease-modifying therapy, the acute and chronic complications of sickle cell anemia (SCA) begin early in childhood and progress throughout life. Hydroxyurea is a safe and effective medication that reduces or prevents most SCA-related complications. Despite recommendations to prescribe hydroxyurea for all children with SCA as young as 9 months, utilization remains low.
We completed a retrospective review of hydroxyurea-prescribing practices and associated clinical outcomes at our institution over a 10-year period before and after the 2014 National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) recommendations to use hydroxyurea for all children with SCA.
Hydroxyurea use more than doubled within our pediatric SCA population from 43% in 2010 to 95% in 2019. The age of hydroxyurea initiation was significantly younger during 2014-2019 compared to 2010-2013 (median 2 years vs. 6 years, p ≤ .001). With this change in clinical practice, nearly all (69/71 = 97%) children born after 2013 received disease-modifying therapy by the end of 2019, primarily hydroxyurea (93%). Concurrently, the number of SCA-related admissions significantly decreased from 67/100 patient-years in 2010 to 39/100 patient-years in 2019 (p < .001).
The early and universal prescription of hydroxyurea for children with SCA is the standard of care. Here, we demonstrate that a careful and deliberate commitment to follow this guideline in clinical practice is feasible and results in measurable improvements in clinical outcomes. Our approach and improved outcomes can serve as a model for other programs to expand their hydroxyurea use for more children with SCA.

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