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BMJ Clin Evid. 2011 Feb 14;2011. pii: 2402.

Sickle cell disease.

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Department of Paediatrics, College of Medical Sciences, University of Calabar, Calabar, Nigeria.



Sickle cell disease causes chronic haemolytic anaemia, dactylitis, and painful acute crises. It also increases the risk of stroke, organ damage, bacterial infections, and complications of blood transfusion. In sub-Saharan Africa, up to a third of adults are carriers of the defective sickle cell gene, and 1% to 2% of babies are born with the disease.


We conducted a systematic review and aimed to answer the following clinical questions: what are the effects of pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions to prevent sickle cell crisis and other acute complications in people with sickle cell disease? What are the effects of pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions to treat pain in people with sickle cell crisis? We searched: Medline, Embase, The Cochrane Library, and other important databases up to March 2010 (Clinical Evidence reviews are updated periodically; please check our website for the most up-to-date version of this review). We included harms alerts from relevant organisations such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).


We found 38 systematic reviews, RCTs, or observational studies that met our inclusion criteria. We performed a GRADE evaluation of the quality of evidence for interventions.


In this systematic review we present information relating to the effectiveness and safety of the following interventions: acupuncture, antibiotic prophylaxis in children <5 years of age, antibiotic prophylaxis in childrenĀ >5 years of age, aspirin, avoidance of cold environment, blood transfusion, codeine, corticosteroid (with narcotic analgesics), diflunisal, hydration, hydroxyurea, ibuprofen, ketorolac, limiting physical exercise, malaria chemoprophylaxis, morphine (controlled-release oral after initial intravenous bolus, repeated intravenous doses), oxygen, paracetamol, patient-controlled analgesia, pneumococcal vaccines, and rehydration.

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