Opioid Use in Adults With Sickle Cell Disease Hospitalized During Vaso-Occlusive Crisis: A Systematic Review

Jennel C. Osborne, Zainab Osakwe, Michelle Odlum


Background: While pain is the hallmark of sickle cell disease (SCD), healthcare personnel are often ill-equipped to adequately treat patients who present in vaso-occlusive crisis (VOC). Although symptom severity varies from individual to individual, SCD is characterized by intervallic pain as a result of oxygen deprivation in tissues and organs. Regardless of pain severity, SCD patients are often viewed as drug seekers by healthcare personnel who have concerns regarding patients’ dependence on opioids which may lead to addiction. The objective was to assess the types and amount of opioids used to treat VOC in comparison to Centers for Disease Control opioid prescription guidelines.

Methods: Literature search was conducted using CINAHL, PubMed, the Cochrane Library, Web of Science and hand search. Data were analyzed from 1999 to 2018. Randomized trials, observational, and case studies involved hospitalized adults with SCD who were prescribed opioids to treat VOC. Quality assessment was conducted using Downs and Black checklist. Meta-analysis was not conducted.

Results: Five studies were conducted in the USA, Arabia and the Netherlands, and the USA and Canada were included. Participants were treated with either morphine or morphine milligram equivalent (MME). No study used the same method of opioid administration.

Conclusions: Patients with SCD who are hospitalized secondary to VOC mostly received opioids for pain well within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention prescription guidelines. No uniform method exists. Additional research is warranted.

J Hematol. 2021;10(2):46-52
doi: https://doi.org/10.14740/jh828


Opioid; Sickle cell disease; Vaso-occlusive crisis; Systematic review

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