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This article is the authors' final version prior to publication in Complementary Therapies in Medicine, Volume 49, March 2020, Article number 102327.

The published version is available at Copyright © Ballas & Darbari


Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a highly complex inherited disorder of hemoglobin structure. Although the molecular lesion is a single-point mutation, the sickle gene is pleiotropic in nature causing multiple phenotypic expressions that constitute the various complications of the disease. Its manifestations could be acute, chronic, nociceptive, neuropathic that could occur singly or in various combinations. Pain continues to be the major factor of SCD phenotypic complications and the most common cause of admissions to the Emergency Department and/or the hospital. Although progress has been made in understanding the pathophysiology of SCD as well as in developing curative therapies such as hematopoietic stem cell transplantation and gene therapy, effective pain management continues to lag behind. Palliative therapies continue to be the major approach to the management of SCD and its complications. The advent of hydroxyurea made partial success in preventing the frequency of vaso-occlusive crises and l-glutamine awaits post-trial confirmation of benefits. The search for additional pharmacotherapeutic agents that could be used singly or in combination with hydroxyurea and/or l-glutamine awaits their dawn hopefully in the near future. The purpose of this review is to describe the various manifestations of SCD, their pathophysiology and their current management. Recent impressive advances in understanding the pathophysiology of pain promise the determination of agents that could replace or minimize the use of opioids.

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