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Papers of the Week

Papers: 16 Nov 2019 - 22 Nov 2019

Pharmacology/Drug Development

2019 Nov 14

Cochrane Database Syst Rev



Pharmacological interventions for painful sickle cell vaso-occlusive crises in adults.


Cooper TE, Hambleton IR, Ballas SK, Johnston BA, Wiffen PJ
Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2019 Nov 14; 2019(11).
PMID: 31742673.


Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a group of inherited disorders of haemoglobin (Hb) structure in a person who has inherited two mutant globin genes (one from each parent), at least one of which is always the sickle mutation. It is estimated that between 5% and 7% of the world's population are carriers of the mutant Hb gene, and SCD is the most commonly inherited blood disorder. SCD is characterized by distorted sickle-shaped red blood cells. Manifestations of the disease are attributed to either haemolysis (premature red cell destruction) or vaso-occlusion (obstruction of blood flow, the most common manifestation). Shortened lifespans are attributable to serious comorbidities associated with the disease, including renal failure, acute cholecystitis, pulmonary hypertension, aplastic crisis, pulmonary embolus, stroke, acute chest syndrome, and sepsis. Vaso-occlusion can lead to an acute, painful crisis (sickle cell crisis, vaso-occlusive crisis (VOC) or vaso-occlusive episode). Pain is most often reported in the joints, extremities, back or chest, but it can occur anywhere and can last for several days or weeks. The bone and muscle pain experienced during a sickle cell crisis is both acute and recurrent. Key pharmacological treatments for VOC include opioid analgesics, non-opioid analgesics, and combinations of drugs. Non-pharmacological approaches, such as relaxation, hypnosis, heat, ice and acupuncture, have been used in conjunction to rehydrating the patient and reduce the sickling process.