Characterization of pica prevalence among patients with sickle cell disease

Natalia S. Ivascu, Sharada Sarnaik, Jocelyn McCrae, Wanda Whitten-Shurney, Ronald Thomas, Sandy Bond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Objective: To determine the prevalence of pica and its characteristics among children with sickle cell disease. Design: Retrospective, observational study. Setting: An urban, ambulatory care, interdisciplinary center. Patients: The medical records of all 480 patients who visited the center from March 1, 1998, to June 30, 1999, were reviewed. Patients were excluded for history of stroke, long-term transfusions, pregnancy, acute illness, or age younger than 3 years. Main Outcome Measures: Sex, age, weight, height, Tanner stage, complete blood cell count, sickle cell genotype, pica history, and levels of iron, zinc, lead, and fetal hemoglobin (Hb). Results: Of 395 study patients, 134 (33.9%) reported pica. Ingested items included paper, foam, and powders. There was a significantly higher prevalence of pica among patients homozygous for Hb S (Hb SS, sickle cell anemia) compared with the combined group of double heterozygous patients with Hb SC, Hb SD, and Hb Sβ thallasemia (Sβ+ or Sβ0) (35.6% vs 25.5%; P=.03). Within genotype, mean Hb levels were significantly lower and reticulocyte counts were significantly higher in the patients with pica. Overall, the mean age of patients with pica was significantly lower; however, the prevalence was 23.3% (27/116) among those aged 10.0 to 14.9 years and 14.8% (8/54) among those aged 15.0 to 19.0 years. Within age groups, patients with pica weighed significantly less. Concluslons: Pica appeared to have an unusually high prevalence in patients with sickle cell disease and a correlation with lower Hb levels. It is unclear whether pica is a specific marker of disease severity, because our review did not show a relationship to increased number and duration of hospitalizations. The association between pica and low body weight suggests a nutritional effect on its prevalence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1243-1247
Number of pages5
JournalArchives of pediatrics & adolescent medicine
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2001


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