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Screening for Sickle Cell Disease

The purpose of screening is early diagnosis and treatment. Screening tests are given to people without symptoms currently, but who may be at high risk for certain diseases or conditions.

Screening Tests

The same tests used to diagnose sickle cell disease can be used to screen for it before symptoms begin. These tests include:

Fetal DNA based testing for hemoglobin problems —This test can be done during the first trimester of pregnancy. It may test tissue from the placenta or fluid around the baby.

Amniocentesis —Tests the fluid that surrounds the baby in the uterus. A small sample of the fluid is removed with a needle. It is then sent to a lab.

Sickledex test —A small blood sample is taken and sent to a lab. It looks at how many red blood cells have the sickle shape. A positive test means a person has either sickle cell trait or sickle cell disease.

Hemoglobin electrophoresis —A small blood sample is taken. It is sent to a lab. The normal and abnormal hemoglobin are measured.

Screening Guidelines

Pregnant women can have their unborn babies tested for sickle cell trait or disease. In many hospitals, newborn babies are screened. Adults can also be screened to find out if they carry the sickle cell trait.


Pinto VM, Balocco M, et al. Sickle cell disease: a review for the internist. Intern Emerg Med. 2019;14(7):1051-1064.

Sickle cell disease. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: Accessed January 29, 2021.

Sickle cell disease in adults and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Accessed March 3, 2021.

Sickle cell disease in infants and children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed March 3, 2021.

Sickle cell trait. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Accessed January 29, 2021.

Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD  Last Updated: 3/5/2021