Impact of an Emergency Department Pain Management Protocol on the Pattern of Visits by Patients with Sickle Cell Disease

Melissa Givens, Cynthia Rutherford, Girish Joshi, Kathleen Delaney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


This study explores how implementation of pain management guidelines in concert with clinic case management affected emergency department (ED) utilization, clinic visits, and hospital admissions for patients with sickle cell disease. A pain management guideline that eliminated meperidine and encouraged timely use of morphine or hydromorphone for pain control in sickle cell crisis was introduced as a quality improvement project. This study is a retrospective review of ED visits, clinic visits, and admissions from 1 year before and 3 years after the guideline implementation. Working with the ED, the Hematology Clinic began to proactively seek the return of their patients for clinic follow-up. A formal case management program for sickle cell patients was initiated in June 2003. A total of 1584 visits by 223 patients were collected, 1097 to the ED and 487 to the Hematology Clinic. Total hospital visits did not change significantly in any of the 4 years, p > 0.10 for each comparison. Total ED visits decreased significantly over the 4-year study period (p < 0.001), whereas clinic visits steadily increased (p < 0.001). Return visits to the ED within 30 days also declined significantly, p < 0.001. Both the absolute number of admissions per year and the total admissions per hospital visit per year declined significantly over the study period, p = 0.001. Although total admissions per hospital visit did not change, the proportion of ED visits that resulted in admission in year 1 (29%) was significantly lower than the proportion admitted in year 2 (43%), p = 0.04. A pain protocol using morphine or hydromorphone coupled with increased access to outpatient clinics decreased ED visits, hospitalizations, and increased utilization of a more stable primary care clinic setting by patients with sickle cell disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)239-243
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2007


  • meperidine
  • pain crisis
  • pain management
  • protocols
  • sickle cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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