The aim of this study was to review the use of patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) in sickle cell disease (SCD) for pediatric patients with vaso-occlusive crisis (VOC) in our institution and to compare the effect of early vs late PCA start on pain relief and LOS.


This retrospective study included all pediatric patients treated with PCA for a severe VOC from 2010 to 2016. “Early-PCA” was defined as start of PCA within 48 hours of arrival. Time to reach adequate analgesia was defined as the time to reach 2 consecutive pain scores less than 5/10 at 4-hour interval.


During the study period, 46 patients presented 87 episodes of VOC treated with PCA. Sixty-three patients with VOC were treated with Early-PCA and 24 with Late-PCA. Both groups were comparable except for median pain score at admission; the Early-PCA group had higher scores: 9.0/10 vs 7.0/10. Time to reach adequate analgesia could be evaluated only in a subset of patients (n = 32) but was shorter in the Early-PCA group with a median difference of 41.0 hours (95% CI −82.0 to −6.0). Early-PCA was associated with a median reduction in LOS of 3.4 days (95% CI −4.9 to −1.9). There was no difference between the 2 groups in terms of side effects and occurrence of acute chest syndrome during hospitalization.


In this study, a reduced time to reach adequate analgesia and LOS was noted in the Early-PCA group for severe VOC. A prospective study is required to confirm these results.

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