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Vasoocclusive pain management in sickle cell disease

Michael R DeBaun, MD, MPH
Elliott P Vichinsky, MD
Section Editors
Donald H Mahoney, Jr, MD
Stanley L Schrier, MD
Deputy Editor
Jennifer S Tirnauer, MD


Acute, painful episodes are the most common reason for individuals with sickle cell disease (SCD) to seek medical attention. The frequency of pain episodes is likely to be underestimated because these episodes are managed at home, especially as patients grow older and learn how to manage pain on their own.

No evidence-based guidelines exist for the treatment of SCD-associated acute pain episodes, either in the hospital or at home. However, reasonable strategies for patient care management can be employed, based on established principles of pain management and pharmacokinetics of opioids. Our approach to the management of painful episodes in children and adults is discussed here.

Separate topic reviews discuss the mechanisms of vasoocclusive pain and other aspects of the management of sickle cell disease:

Pain mechanisms – (See "Mechanisms of vasoocclusion in sickle cell disease".)

Overview of management – (See "Overview of the management and prognosis of sickle cell disease".)


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Aug 23, 2016.
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