Chest pain symptoms in sickle cell disease patients

Acute chest syndrome is a term used to cover conditions characterized by chest pain, cough, fever, hypoxia (low oxygen level) and lung infiltrates. Acute chest syndrome may be the result of sickling in the small blood vessels in the lungs causing a pulmonary infarction/emboli or viral or bacterial pneumonia.

It may develop as a single event, or during a painful vaso-occlusive crisis. The clinical course is usually self-limited when small areas of the lung tissue are involved, but without proper care, acute chest syndrome can rapidly progress and result in death.

Chest pain when breathing is the most common presenting complaint in adults. Fever, cough, tachypnea (abnormally rapid breathing), hypoxemia (an unusually low concentration of oxygen in the blood), or abdominal pain are common presentations for infants and children.

It is always best to rule out infection in these cases and obtain appropriate blood cultures and serologic studies. There may or may not be radiographic evidence (X-ray) of pulmonary infiltrates at the initial time of symptoms. Rib infarction, stomach ulcer, or gallbladder problems can also result in chest pain and should be checked as well.