Evaluation of a clinical protocol using intranasal fentanyl for treatment of vaso-occlusive crisis in sickle cell patients in the emergency department

Paediatr Child Health. 2020 Aug;25(5):293-299. doi: 10.1093/pch/pxz022. Epub 2019 Mar 7.


Background: Vaso-occlusive crisis (VOC) is one of the most frequent causes of emergency visits and admission in children with sickle cell disease (SCD).

Objectives: This study aims to evaluate whether the use of a new pain management pathway using intranasal (IN) fentanyl from triage leads to improved care, translated by a decrease in time to first opiate dose.

Methods: We performed a retrospective chart review of patients with SCD who presented to the emergency department (ED) with VOC, in the period pre- (52 patients) and post- (44 patients) implementation period of the protocol. Time to first opiate was the primary outcome and was evaluated pre- and postimplementation. Patients received a first opiate dose within 52.3 minutes of registration (interquantile range [IQR] 30.6, 74.6), corresponding to a 41.4-minute reduction in the opiate administration time (95% confidence interval [CI] -56.1, -27.9). There was also a 43% increase in the number of patients treated with a nonintravenous (IV) opiate as first opiate dose (95% CI 26, 57). In patients who were discharged from the ED, there was a 49% decrease in the number of IV line insertions (95% CI -67, -22). There was no difference in the hospitalization rates (difference of 6 [95% CI -13, 25]).

Conclusions: This study validates the use of our protocol using IN fentanyl as first treatment of VOC in the ED by significantly reducing the time to first opiate dose and the number of IVs.

Keywords: Hemoglobinopathies; Paediatric hematology; Pain; Sickle cell disease.