UC Davis Health launches pediatric pulmonary sickle cell clinic

Doctor Shaina Willen with patient

UC Davis Health launches pediatric pulmonary sickle cell clinic


For patients with sickle cell disease (a common, inherited blood disorder), pulmonary complications are often the most common causes of early death. The most serious and acute respiratory problem, acute chest syndrome, is experienced by more than 50% of patients with sickle cell disease at least once in their lifetime. Symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing, cough, fever, and chest or back pain. 

In response, UC Davis Health has recently launched a comprehensive pulmonary sickle cell clinic for children and young adults up to age 24. The clinic is designed to address breathing and respiratory complications of sickle cell disease such as asthma, exercise intolerance, and sleep disordered breathing. It is the first clinic of its kind in the Sacramento area. 

“By embedding the pediatric pulmonologist into the sickle cell clinic, patients are receiving continuity from the same team who has been giving their regular sickle cell care,” said pediatric pulmonologist and hematologist Shaina Willen, who spearheaded this clinic. “Plus, they get the added benefit of addressing breathing problems with the help of a lung expert.” 

The clinic is located in UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. The clinic provides pulmonary function testing and home sleep studies from the location.  

Highest-risk patients are identified by their hematologist and referred to the pulmonary sickle cell clinic. 

“This is a one-stop shop for patients with sickle cell disease, so they get the added expertise from our pediatric pulmonology team during their routine care visits,” Willen said. “No need to need to navigate to a different building or make an additional appointment.”