Complications of SCD: Acute Chest Syndrome

At a glance

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a group of inherited blood disorders associated with severe pain and complications that can affect the entire body. This page provides information on SCD and acute chest syndrome (ACS).

A man holding his chest in pain.


Acute Chest Syndrome (ACS) is a life-threatening complication in people living with SCD that can result in lung injury, breathing difficulty, and low oxygen to the rest of the body. ACS may occur when sickled cells block blood and oxygen from reaching the lungs or may be caused by a viral or bacterial infection. In children, ACS is usually caused by an infection. ACS is a medical emergency and should be treated in the hospital right away.


Signs and symptoms are similar to pneumonia. They can include:

  • Chest pain
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever