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scientific articles

Weight Loss as an Effective Strategy to Decrease Opioid Use and Frequency of Vaso-Occlusive Crises in Patients With Sickle Cell Disease

key information

source: Journal of Palliative Medicine

year: 2020

authors: Seda Babroudi, Tamara Vesel

summary/abstract:

Background:
Vaso-occlusive crises (VOCs) are a hallmark of sickle cell disease (SCD) during which patients experience localized pain. The current mainstay of treatment for SCD-related pain syndrome is nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs) and opioid analgesics. Opioids, however, carry a high risk of depression, addiction, and life-threatening hypoventilation. In this study we report weight loss through a multidisciplinary program and bariatric surgery as an effective nonopioid modality to decrease the use of opioids and frequency of VOCs in a patient with SCD.

Case Description:
A 35-year-old woman with SCD and morbid obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 42 kg/m2) required high doses of opioids for pain control [870 morphine milligram equivalents (MME) per day], and experienced monthly hospitalizations for VOCs that precluded her from working or having meaningful interpersonal relationships. Palliative care identified that the patient had no admissions for VOCs when her BMI was <25 kg/m2. Given this observation, it was recommended to the patient that she lose weight. The patient enrolled in a multidisciplinary wellness program and underwent laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy. She subsequently lost 30 kg (BMI of 29 kg/m2), decreased her basal opioid requirement by 58% (365 MME per day), and experienced no further hospitalizations for VOCs after the intervention, thereby improving her quality of life.

Conclusions:
The pervasive use and overreliance on opioid analgesics in the treatment of VOCs increase morbidity and mortality among patients with SCD. This case study offers compelling evidence for weight loss through a multidisciplinary program as an adjunctive therapy to decrease the use of opioids and frequency of hospitalizations for VOCs.

organization: Tufts University School of Medicine, United States

DOI: 10.1089/jpm.2020.0091

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