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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2019 Jul 5;7:CD012943. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD012943.pub2. [Epub ahead of print]

Interventions for treating neuropathic pain in people with sickle cell disease.

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Sickle Cell Unit, Caribbean Institute for Health Research, The University of the West Indies, 7 Ring Road, Mona Campus, Kingston 7, Jamaica.



Pain is the hallmark of sickle cell disease (SCD) and it can be severe, frequent and unpredictable. Although nociceptive pain is more common, at times, people with SCD may have neuropathic pain. The latter can occur due to peripheral or central nerve injury. This review is focused on identifying treatment of only painful sensory neuropathy in people with SCD.


To determine the effectiveness and safety of any pharmacological or non-pharmacological therapies for treating neuropathic pain in people with SCD.


We searched the Cochrane Cystic Fibrosis and Genetic Disorders Group's Haemoglobinopathies Trials Register, compiled from electronic database searches and handsearching of journals and conference abstract books. We also searched trial registries, the reference lists of relevant articles and reviews and contacted experts in the field.Date of last search: 31 January 2019.


Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) (parallel or cross-over in design), quasi-RCTs of pharmacological or non-pharmacological therapies for treating neuropathic pain in people with SCD compared to placebo or another intervention in any category (i.e. pharmacological or non-pharmacological).


Two review authors independently assessed all trials identified by the searches and extracted relevant data. Two authors independently assessed the risk of bias in the selected trials using the Cochrane risk of bias tool. Two review authors independently rated the quality of the evidence for each outcome using the GRADE guidelines.


One RCT of 22 participants with SCD, conducted in the USA was included in this review. Participants were randomly assigned to either pregabalin (n = 11) or placebo (n = 11). Oral pregabalin was administered at an initial dose of 75 mg twice daily. The drug was titrated at increments of 75 mg to a maximum of 600 mg daily or decreased by 75 mg per day if necessary, based on clinical presentation and pain level. Neuropathic pain was assessed using self-reports on the Leeds Assessment of Neuropathic Symptoms and Signs (S-LANNS) scale and the Neuropathic Pain Symptom Inventory (NPSI), where higher scores were indicative of more pain. Outcomes included self-reported pain, quality of life and withdrawal due to adverse effects measured at baseline and monthly for three months post-intervention. The overall risk of bias was low with a high risk of bias due to attrition.In relation to this reviews primary outcomes, for self-reported neuropathic pain relief, given the paucity of data, we are very uncertain whether there is a difference between the pregabalin and placebo groups at the end of three months as measured by the S-LANSS scale, mean difference (MD) -2.00 (95% confidence interval (CI) -9.18 to 5.18), or the NPSI scale, MD -11.10 (95% CI -33.97 to 11.77) (very low-quality evidence). There was no report of 'Patient Global Impression of Change' in the included trial.Although the mean quality of life scores (Short Form-36) at three months showed small increases in seven of the eight domains post-intervention in the pregabalin group as compared to the placebo group, this was very low-quality evidence and we are very uncertain whether pregabalin increases quality of life. Neither of our pre-defined outcomes of 'time to improvement of symptoms' or 'changes in sleep quality', were measured in the included trial.While treatment-related adverse effects appeared higher in pregabalin group than the placebo group at three months, this was very low-quality evidence and we are very uncertain whether there is a difference, RR 1.33 (95% CI 0.39 to 4.62) (very low-quality evidence). There was one withdrawal for adverse effects in the pregabalin group while three people withdrew or dropped out from the placebo group due to adverse effects and complications and hospitalisation related to SCD.


The included trial provided very low-quality evidence. Self-reported pain relief was greater in the pregabalin group compared to the placebo control group but only using the S-LANSS scale and we are very unsure whether there is a difference. While the pregabalin group tended to have improved quality of life over the duration of the trial, this was very low-quality evidence and we are uncertain whether there is a difference. Adverse effects and withdrawals were similar across the treatment and placebo control group in trial. There are both insufficient trials addressing this review question and insufficient outcomes addressed in the single included RCT. Therefore, there is still a significant gap in evidence on interventions for neuropathic pain in people with SCD.

[Available on 2020-07-05]

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