Red blood cell transfusion therapy for sickle cell patients with frequent painful events

Academic Article


  • Background: Recurrent pain events or chronic pain are among the most common complications of sickle cell disease. Despite attempts to maximize adherence to and dosing of hydroxyurea, some patients continue to suffer from pain. Our institution developed a program to initiate chronic red blood cell transfusions for one year in patients clinically deemed to have high healthcare utilization from sickle cell pain, despite being prescribed hydroxyurea. Procedure: An institutional review board approved retrospective study to evaluate the health outcomes associated with a one-year red blood cell transfusion protocol in sickle cell patients experiencing recurrent pain events as compared with the health outcomes for these patients in the one year prior to receiving transfusion therapy. We performed a matched-pair analysis using a Wilcoxon signed rank to determine the impact of transfusion therapy on clinic visits, emergency department visits, hospital admissions, hospitalization days, and opioid prescriptions filled. Results: One year of transfusion therapy significantly reduced the number of total emergency department visits for pain (6 vs 2.5 pain visits/year, P = 0.005), mean hospitalizations for pain (3.4 vs 0.9 pain admissions/year), and mean hospital days per year for pain crisis (23.5 vs 4.5, P = 0.0001), as compared with the one year prior to transfusion therapy. We identified no significant difference in opioid prescriptions filled during the year of transfusion therapy. Conclusion: Patients with frequent pain episodes may benefit from one year of transfusion therapy.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Hilliard LM; Kulkarni V; Sen B; Caldwell C; Bemrich-Stolz C; Howard TH; Brandow A; Waite E; Lebensburger JD
  • Volume

  • 65
  • Issue

  • 12