BACKGROUND Priapism was associated with certain hematological parameters in sickle cell anemia (SCA) patients in one report but not in another. We studied differences in haematological parameters between SCA patients with and without priapism. PATIENTS AND METHODS Eighteen patients with SCA who presented with acute priapism during the years 2001-2004 were compared with age- and sex-matched SCA patients without priapism with respect to hematocrit, reticulocyte count, level of irreversibly sickled cells (ISC), percentage of haemoglobin F (Hb F), total leukocyte and platelet counts. RESULTS SCA patients with priapism had a mean hematocrit of 0.28 L/L, which was significantly higher than the mean hematocrit value of 0.24 L/L (P<0.05) in patients without priapism. The mean reticulocyte count of 8% in patients with priapism was significantly lower than mean reticulocyte count of 12% (P<0.05) in patients without priapism. The level of ISC of 3% in patients with priapism was significantly lower than the level of 6.5% (P<0.05) in patients without priapism. There was no statistically significant difference in the mean levels of Hb F (7% vs. 6%). Patients with priapism had a mean leukocyte count and mean platelet count that did not significantly differ from values in patients without priapism. CONCLUSIONS SCA patients with priapism had a lower rate of hemolysis, resulting in a higher hematocrit and greater blood viscosity, which increased the risk of corpora cavernosal sickling and blockade. Hence, a relatively high hematocrit is a risk factor for the development priapism in patients with sickle cell anemia.