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01.12.2017 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2017 Open Access

BMC Nephrology 1/2017

Increased prevalence of renal cysts in patients with sickle cell disease

BMC Nephrology > Ausgabe 1/2017
Daveena Meeks, Arunraj Navaratnarajah, Emma Drasar, Ounali Jaffer, C. Jason Wilkins, Swee Lay Thein, Claire C. Sharpe



Early detection and interventions have enabled patients with sickle cell disease (SCD) to live well into adulthood. Consequently, the chronicity of SCD allows for the insidious manifestation of multisystem complications, including renal damage. Cystic renal lesions are commonly incidentally discovered on ultrasound and computerised tomography (CT) imaging of the abdomen. Most are benign simple cysts, however, difficulties may be encountered if infection, rupture, haemorrhage or cancerous changes develop. We aimed to determine whether patients with SCD have a higher prevalence of simple renal cysts compared to non-SCD individuals.


Data for a group of 223 patients with SCD who had undergone an ultrasound and/or CT imaging of the abdomen were extracted for comparison with 180 control patients (haemoglobin genotype unknown), matched for age and ethnicity. Scans were evaluated for 198 SCD patients and 180 controls.


Renal cysts were found in 58% of the SCD group and 20% of the controls (OR 5.4 (CI 2.6–11.0), RR 2.8 (CI 1.9–4.2)). Bilateral renal cysts were found in 28% of the SCD participants in comparison with 5% of the control group. In those who had one or more cysts identified, the average number of cysts was 3.76 for the SCD group and 1.94 for the controls. Men with SCD were more likely to develop cysts than women (66% vs 53%), as were men without SCD (22% vs 17%).


Simple renal cysts occur more frequently, are more abundant and develop at a younger age in patients with SCD than ethnically-matched controls. Further study of the mechanism underlying cyst formation may shed light on both sickle cell nephropathy and other cystic renal diseases.
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