Acute chest syndrome

Last updated: November 20, 2023

Summarytoggle arrow icon

Acute chest syndrome (ACS) is a potentially fatal complication of sickle cell anemia caused by vaso-occlusion of the pulmonary vasculature. Symptoms may include chest pain, shortness of breath, and fever. Diagnosis is based on clinical symptoms and chest imaging findings of a new pulmonary infiltrate. Management consists of antibiotics, supportive care with IV fluids and oxygen, and possibly a blood transfusion.

See also “Sickle cell disease.”

Definitiontoggle arrow icon

Clinical featurestoggle arrow icon

Diagnosticstoggle arrow icon

ACS is a clinical diagnosis supported by characteristic clinical features and the presence of new pulmonary infiltrate on imaging. [1]

Diagnostic criteria for acute chest syndrome [2][3][4]

Laboratory studies



Managementtoggle arrow icon

General principles [1][4][9]

Supportive care

Avoid overhydration in patients with acute chest syndrome because of the risk of pulmonary edema.

Antibiotic therapy [7]

Blood transfusion

Monitoring and disposition

Complicationstoggle arrow icon

We list the most important complications. The selection is not exhaustive.

Acute management checklisttoggle arrow icon

Referencestoggle arrow icon

  1. Howard J, Hart N, Roberts-Harewood M, et al. Guideline on the management of acute chest syndrome in sickle cell disease. Br J Haematol. 2015; 169 (4): p.492-505.doi: 10.1111/bjh.13348 . | Open in Read by QxMD
  2. Ballas SK, Lieff S, Benjamin LJ, et al. Definitions of the phenotypic manifestations of sickle cell disease. Am J Hematol. 2009: p.NA-NA.doi: 10.1002/ajh.21550 . | Open in Read by QxMD
  3. Vichinsky EP, Neumayr LD, Earles AN, et al. Causes and Outcomes of the Acute Chest Syndrome in Sickle Cell Disease. N Engl J Med. 2000; 342 (25): p.1855-1865.doi: 10.1056/nejm200006223422502 . | Open in Read by QxMD
  4. Evidence-Based Management of Sickle Cell Disease: Expert Panel Report, 2014. Updated: September 1, 2014. Accessed: November 27, 2019.
  5. Chaturvedi S, Ghafuri DL, Glassberg J, Kassim AA, Rodeghier M, DeBaun MR. Rapidly progressive acute chest syndrome in individuals with sickle cell anemia: a distinct acute chest syndrome phenotype. Am J Hematol. 2016; 91 (12): p.1185-1190.doi: 10.1002/ajh.24539 . | Open in Read by QxMD
  6. Al-Salem A. The Acute Chest Syndrome in Sickle Cell Anemia. Springer ; 2015
  7. The management of sickle cell disease. Updated: January 1, 2002. Accessed: February 26, 2020.
  8. Dessap AM, Deux J-F, Abidi N, et al. Pulmonary Artery Thrombosis during Acute Chest Syndrome in Sickle Cell Disease. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2011; 184 (9): p.1022-1029.doi: 10.1164/rccm.201105-0783oc . | Open in Read by QxMD
  9. Yawn et al. Management of sickle cell disease: summary of the 2014 evidence-based report by expert panel members.. JAMA. 2014; 312 (10): p.1033-48.doi: 10.1001/jama.2014.10517 . | Open in Read by QxMD
  10. Kanter J, Liem RI, Bernaudin F, et al. American Society of Hematology 2021 guidelines for sickle cell disease: stem cell transplantation. Blood Adv. 2021; 5 (18): p.3668-3689.doi: 10.1182/bloodadvances.2021004394c . | Open in Read by QxMD
  11. Okomo U, Meremikwu MM. Fluid replacement therapy for acute episodes of pain in people with sickle cell disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2017.doi: 10.1002/14651858.cd005406.pub5 . | Open in Read by QxMD
  12. Gilbert, DN; Chambers, HF. Sanford Guide to Antimicrobial Therapy 2020. Antimicrobial Therapy, Inc ; 2020
  13. Baskin MN, Goh XL, Heeney MM, Harper MB. Bacteremia Risk and Outpatient Management of Febrile Patients With Sickle Cell Disease. Pediatrics. 2013; 131 (6): p.1035-1041.doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-2139 . | Open in Read by QxMD
  14. Otrock ZK, Thibodeaux SR, Jackups R. Vascular access for red blood cell exchange. Transfusion. 2018; 58 (S1): p.569-579.doi: 10.1111/trf.14495 . | Open in Read by QxMD

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