Use of the blood substitute HBOC-201 in critically ill patients during sickle crisis: a three-case series

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Red blood cell (RBC) transfusion is an important treatment modality during severe sickle cell crisis (SCC). SCC patients who refuse, or cannot accept, RBCs present a unique challenge. Acellular hemoglobin (Hb)-based oxygen carriers (HBOCs) might be an alternative for critically ill patients in SCC with multiorgan failure due to life-threatening anemia. HBOC-201 (HbO2 Therapeutics) has been administered to more than 800 anemic patients in 22 clinical trials, but use of any HBOCs in critically ill sickle cell patients with organ failure is exceedingly rare. In the United States, HBOC-201 is currently only available for expanded access.


We report three cases of HBOC-201 administered to critically ill sickle cell disease patients in SCC with multiorgan failure, either who refused RBCs (Jehovah's Witnesses) or for whom compatible RBCs were not available.


Two patients received more than 20 units of HBOC-201, while the other received 6. The 27 units used in the third case equals the largest volume a patient has successfully received to date. All three patients survived to hospital discharge.


These reports suggest that blood substitutes such as HBOC-201 can provide an oxygen bridge in SCC with multiorgan failure, until corpuscular Hb levels recover to meet metabolic demand, and highlight the compelling biochemical properties that warrant further investigation.