Purpose of review: The purpose of this article is to provide a comprehensive review of wheezing in sickle cell disease (SCD), including epidemiology, pathophysiology, associations between wheezing and SCD morbidity and finally the clinical approach to evaluation and management of individuals with SCD who wheeze.
Recent findings: Wheezing is common in SCD and in some individuals represents an intrinsic component of SCD-related lung disease rather than asthma. Emerging data suggest that, regardless of the cause, individuals with SCD and with recurrent wheezing are at increased risk for subsequent morbidity and premature mortality. We believe individuals who acutely wheeze and have respiratory symptoms should be managed with a beta agonist and short-term treatment of oral steroids, typically less than 3 days to attenuate rebound vaso-occlusive disease. For those who wheeze and have a history or examination associated with atopy, we consider asthma treatment and monitoring per National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute asthma guidelines.
Summary: Wheezing in SCD should be treated aggressively both in the acute setting and with controller medications. Prospective SCD-specific clinical trials will be necessary to address whether anti-inflammatory asthma therapies (leukotriene antagonists, inhaled corticosteroids) can safely mitigate the sequelae of wheezing in SCD.