Refugee children with beta-thalassemia in Turkey: Overview of demographic, socioeconomic, and medical characteristics

Erdem A. Y. , Yenigurbuz F. D. , Pekpak E., Akinci B., Aktekin E., Bayram C., ...More

PEDIATRIC BLOOD & CANCER, vol.66, no.5, 2019 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 66 Issue: 5
  • Publication Date: 2019
  • Doi Number: 10.1002/pbc.27636
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus
  • Keywords: beta-thalassemia, medical characteristics, refugee children, MUTATIONS, RESONANCE, PROGRAM
  • Gazi University Affiliated: Yes


Aim Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, more than 3.5 million Syrians have been under temporary protection status in Turkey. Because beta-thalassemia (BT) is a prevalent disorder in the Mediterranean countries, we decided to estimate the prevalence of and make an overview of the demographic, socioeconomic, medical characteristics, and healthcare problems of refugee children with BT. Patients Eighteen Turkish Pediatric Hematology Oncology Centers (PHOC) with 318 refugee children from 235 families participated in the study. The mean age of the patients was 8.1 +/- 4.8 years (0.5-21 years). The mean time after immigration to Turkey was 2.5 +/- 1.5 years (range, 0.1-7 years). Seventy-two (22.6%) of them were born and diagnosed with BT in Turkey. On physical examination, 82 patients (26%) were underweight and 121 patients (38%) were stunted. The appearance of a thalassemic face was reported for 207 patients (65.1%). Hepatomegaly and splenomegaly were reported in 217 (68.2%) and 168 (52.8%) patients, respectively. The median ferritin level was 2508 ng/mL (range, 17-21 000 ng/mL) at the first admission, and 2841 ng/mL (range, 26-12 981 ng/mL) at the last visit after two years of follow-up in a PHOC (P > 0.05). The most frequently encountered mutation was IVSI-110 (G>A) (31%). Before immigration, only 177 patients (55.6%) reported the use of chelators; after immigration it increased to 268 (84.3%). Conclusion Difficulties in communication, finding a competent translator capable in medical terminology, nonregular use of medications, and insensitivity to prenatal diagnosis were preliminary problems. The current extent of migration poses emerging socioeconomic and humanitarian challenges for refugee patients with BT.