A retrospective review of acupuncture use for the treatment of pain in sickle cell disease patients: Descriptive analysis from a single institution

Kit Lu, Mok Chung Jennifer Cheng, Xiaoying Ge, Ann Berger, Dihua Xu, Gregory J. Kato, Caterina P. Minniti

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVES:: This retrospective study describes the use of acupuncture for adult sickle cell patients in a single institution. MATERIALS AND METHODS:: We identified 47 sickle cell disease patients referred for acupuncture at the National Institutes of Health between January 2005 and September 2011. All patients were enrolled in a Study of the Natural History of sickle cell disease and signed consent. We reviewed patient demographics, location of acupuncture treatment sessions (inpatient vs. outpatient), number of sessions received, sites of pain, patient pain reporting, and the use of other complementary therapies. RESULTS:: Of the 47 patients (60% women, median age 36 y) referred for acupuncture, 42 had homozygous SS disease (89%) and 5 had SC disease (11%). Over half of the patients (51%) reported >3 sites of pain. Only 24 patients (51%) underwent acupuncture treatment. Of those who elected not to receive acupuncture, a majority (87%) accepted some other forms of complementary therapies. Nine patients underwent only inpatient acupuncture for acute vaso-occlusive crisis. Eleven patients received only outpatient acupuncture treatment for chronic pain, and 4 patients received both inpatient and outpatient treatments. For the patients who received inpatient acupuncture treatment for acute vaso-occlusive crisis, there was a significant reduction of reported pain score immediately after acupuncture treatment with an average pain reduction of 2.1 points on the numeric pain scale (P<0.0001). Excluding the 2 outliers, 75% of patients (n=13) in the outpatient setting described their pain as improved compared with prior session. DISCUSSION:: To our knowledge, this is the largest retrospective review of acupuncture use in the sickle cell population. This analysis describes the use of acupuncture and raises the possibility of its use as an adjuvant for pain management in this population. Future clinical trials are needed to evaluate acupuncture's efficacy and effectiveness for pain management in different treatment settings and for various types of pain etiologies among the sickle cell population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)825-830
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Journal of Pain
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2014


  • acupuncture
  • acute pain
  • chronic pain
  • pain management
  • sickle cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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