Intranasal fentanyl and discharge from the emergency department among children with sickle cell disease and vaso-occlusive pain: A multicenter pediatric emergency medicine perspective

Am J Hematol. 2023 Apr;98(4):620-627. doi: 10.1002/ajh.26837. Epub 2023 Feb 6.


Children with sickle cell disease (SCD) commonly experience vaso-occlusive pain episodes (VOE) due to sickling of erythrocytes, which often requires care in the emergency department. Our objective was to assess the use and impact of intranasal fentanyl for the treatment of children with SCD-VOE on discharge from the emergency department in a multicenter study. We conducted a cross-sectional study at 20 academic pediatric emergency departments in the United States and Canada. We used logistic regression to test bivariable and multivariable associations between the outcome of discharge from the emergency department and candidate variables theoretically associated with discharge. The study included 400 patients; 215 (54%) were female. The median age was 14.6 (interquartile range 9.8, 17.6) years. Nineteen percent (n = 75) received intranasal fentanyl in the emergency department. Children who received intranasal fentanyl had nearly nine-fold greater adjusted odds of discharge from the emergency department compared to those who did not (adjusted odds ratio 8.99, 95% CI 2.81-30.56, p < .001). The rapid onset of action and ease of delivery without intravenous access offered by intranasal fentanyl make it a feasible initial parenteral analgesic in the treatment of children with SCD presenting with VOE in the acute-care setting. Further study is needed to determine potential causality of the association between intranasal fentanyl and discharge from the emergency department observed in this multicenter study.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell* / complications
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Fentanyl
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain / complications
  • Pain / etiology
  • Patient Discharge
  • Pediatric Emergency Medicine*


  • Fentanyl
  • Analgesics, Opioid