Scientific Literature

Treating Chronic Pain in Sickle Cell Disease – The Need for a Biopsychosocial Model

Childerhose, J. E., Cronin, R. M., Klatt, M. D., & Schamess, A. New England Journal of Medicine. (2023)

Chronic pain is the most common complication affecting adults with sickle cell disease (SCD). Pain profoundly affects people’s quality of life, functional ability, and health care utilization. Clinicians are often unsuccessful at addressing chronic pain in SCD, especially among the large number of patients for whom nonopioid analgesics aren’t sufficient and those who have developed opioid tolerance. Why aren’t we doing better?

We believe the medical community is looking at sickle cell pain through the wrong lens — treating it as a hematologic problem, while overlooking the neurologic, psychological, and social aspects of chronic pain.

Given the current understanding of the neuropsychology of pain, the health care system has the ability to manage sickle cell pain more effectively. Doing so will require accepting a broader understanding of the experience of pain and devoting adequate resources to addressing its multiple dimensions.

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