BACKGROUND: Young adults with sickle cell anemia are at high risk for increased hospitalization and death at the time of transition to adult care. This may be related to failure of the transition system to prepare young adults for the adult healthcare system. This qualitative study was designed to identify factors related to transition that may affect the health of adults with sickle cell anemia. PROCEDURE: Ten patients currently treated in an adult hematology clinic participated in semi-structured qualitative interviews to describe their experience transitioning from pediatric to adult care and differences in adult and pediatric healthcare systems. RESULTS: Participants were generally unprepared for the adult healthcare system. Negative issues experienced by participants included physician mistrust, difficulty with employers, keeping insurance, and stress in personal relationships. Positive issues experienced by participants included improved self efficacy with improved self care and autonomy. CONCLUSIONS: In the absence of a formalized transition program, adults with sickle cell anemia experience significant barriers to adult care. In addition to medical history review and identification of an adult provider, transition programs should incorporate strategies to navigate the adult medical system, insurance and relationships as well as encouraging self efficacy.