Is Sickle Cell Anemia Pain Influenced by Sleep-Disordered Breathing?

Although previous evidence has been conflicting, findings from a new study have clarified that sleep disordered breathing is likely not associated with severe pain episodes among children with sickle cell anemia (SCA).

For their study, the researchers evaluated 140 children with SCA (median age 10.8 years). Follow-up lasted a median of 4.9 years.

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Overnight polysomnography evaluations were performed at baseline and subsequently measured. A 2-step multivariable model assessed all potential covariates in a screening model and all statistically significant variates in a final model.

Results showed that higher mean nocturnal hemoglobin oxygen saturation was associated with was associated with higher rates of pain episodes (Incidence rate ratio [IRR] 1.10).

Contrastingly, higher log oxygen desaturation index was not significantly associated with higher rates of pain episodes (IRR 0.93), and higher log obstructive apnea-hypopnea index did not reach statistical significance.

“Neither low nocturnal SpO2, higher OAHI, nor higher ODI were associated with clinically relevant increased incidence rates of acute severe pain episodes,” the researchers concluded.

—Christina Vogt


Willen SM, Rodeghier M, Rosen CL, DeBaun MR. Sleep disordered breathing does not predict acute severe pain episodes in children with sickle cell anemia. Am J Hematol. 2018;93(4):478-485. doi:10.1002/ajh.25013.