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Sickle Cell Test

Why It Is Done

A sickle cell test is done to help diagnose sickle cell disease.

A sickle cell test is also done to screen for sickle cell trait or sickle cell disease. This test may be done for newborns and for people at high risk. Detecting sickle cell trait is important for couples who want to have children and who may be carriers of sickle cell trait.

How To Prepare

Be sure to tell your doctor if you have had a blood transfusion in the past 4 months because it can interfere with the test results.

How It Is Done

Blood sample from a vein

The health professional drawing blood will:

  • Wrap an elastic band around your upper arm to stop the flow of blood. This makes the veins below the band larger so it is easier to put a needle into the vein.
  • Clean the needle site with alcohol.
  • Put the needle into the vein. More than one needle stick may be needed.
  • Attach a tube to the needle to fill it with blood.
  • Remove the band from your arm when enough blood is collected.
  • Put a gauze pad or cotton ball over the needle site as the needle is removed.
  • Put pressure to the site and then a bandage.

Blood sample from a heel stick

During newborn testing, the blood sample is usually taken from your baby's heel (called a heel stick).

  • Your baby's heel is cleaned with alcohol and then the heel is poked with a small needle.
  • Several drops of blood are collected inside circles on a special piece of paper.
  • When enough blood has been collected, a small bandage is put on the site.

How It Feels

The blood sample is taken from a vein in your arm. An elastic band is wrapped around your upper arm. It may feel tight. You may feel nothing at all from the needle, or you may feel a quick sting or pinch.

Your baby may feel a sting or a pinch with a heel stick.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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