A Comprehensive Review of the Treatment and Management of Pain in Sickle Cell Disease

Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2020 Mar 21;24(5):17. doi: 10.1007/s11916-020-00854-y.


Purpose of review: Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a hematological disorder which leads to serious complications in multiple organ systems. While significant research has addressed many of the effects of acute pain episodes and end-organ damage connected to this disease, little has approached the chronic pain state associated with this condition.

Recent findings: Associated chronic pain represents a significant detractor from the quality of life experienced by these patients, affecting over half of those with SCD on more days than not. Current treatment typically is centered upon preventing and responding to acute vasoocclusive crises, presumably because this is the most common reason for hospitalization in these patients. The lack of management of chronic pain symptoms leaves many with SCD in a state of suffering. In this review, the treatment methodologies of SCD patients are examined including alternative treatments, both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical, as well as procedural approaches specifically aimed at reducing chronic pain in these patients.

Keywords: Chronic pain; Cognitive behavioral therapy; Sickle cell disease; Vasoocclusive crisis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / complications*
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / therapy*
  • Chronic Pain / etiology*
  • Chronic Pain / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Pain Management / methods*