Pain Experiences of Adults with Sickle Cell Disease and Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation: A Qualitative Study

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Objective. Despite increasing use of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) for adults with sickle cell disease (SCD), little is known about pain management experiences throughout this process. The objective of this study was to explore patients' experiences with pain and pain management during and after HSCT for SCD. Methods. We conducted a qualitative interview study with 10 patients who underwent HSCT for SCD. We transcribed interviews verbatim and inductively identified codes. We used thematic analysis alongside a constant comparative method to develop and refine a codebook that aided in the identification of themes. Results. Four key themes emerged. (1) The pain trajectory: patients described a fluctuating course of pain during HSCT, which often extended long afterwards and impacted all aspects of life, particularly affected by pre-HSCT experiences; (2) The role of opioids-a doubleedged sword: patients described opioids as reducing pain but insufficiently to balance significant adverse effects and burden; (3) Patient-centered decision making in pain management: patients described insufficient agency in decisions about opioid use and weaning; and (4) Consequences of health-related stigma: patients described experiences with stigma, mainly related to opioid use and weaning, as similar to pre-HSCT. Conclusions. From the perspective of patients who have undergone HSCT for SCD, clinicians should use a patient-centered approach, integrating non-opioid approaches into pain management, particularly psychosocial support. As transplant for SCD becomes increasingly available, incorporating patient perspectives may improve health care delivery and overall patient experiences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1753-1759
Number of pages7
JournalPain Medicine (United States)
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2021


  • Opioids
  • Pain
  • Sickle Cell Disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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