Systematic Review: Pain and Emotional Functioning in Pediatric Sickle Cell Disease

J Clin Psychol Med Settings. 2020 Jun;27(2):343-365. doi: 10.1007/s10880-019-09647-x.


The objective of this systematic review was to assess the relationship between pain (frequency/intensity/duration, impairment, coping) and emotional functioning in pediatric Sickle Cell Disease, and evaluate the state of the literature. Studies were included if they met each of the following criteria: (a) primarily pediatric sample of youth or young adults up to age 21 years with SCD, (b) examined emotional functioning including anxiety and/or depressive and/or internalizing symptoms, and/or affect, (c) examined pain intensity/frequency/duration and/or pain-related impairment and/or pain coping as it relates to emotional functioning, as defined above. Using the established guidelines for systematic reviews, we searched PsycINFO, PubMED, and CINAHL databases for studies published through June 2018. Screening resulted in 33 studies meeting inclusion criteria. Study data were extracted and evaluated for scientific merit, resulting in four studies being removed. 29 studies were included in the final synthesis. Studies provide strongest evidence of a relationship between increased pain frequency and higher depressive and anxiety symptoms. There are moderate-to-strong associations between pain-related impairment and depressive symptoms, and small-to-strong associations between pain-related impairment and anxiety. When examining pain-coping strategies, maladaptive cognitive strategies show the strongest association with emotional functioning. There is a need for more adequately powered, prospective studies based on theoretical frameworks in order to advance our understanding of the relationship between pain and emotional functioning in pediatric SCD.

Keywords: Anxiety; Depression; Pain; Sickle cell disease; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell* / complications
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell* / etiology
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell* / psychology
  • Anxiety* / psychology
  • Child
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain* / psychology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Young Adult