Methadone provides pain relief for kids with sickle cell

Many children with sickle cell disease experience frequent and severe pain episodes, requiring emergency room visits or hospitalization. In search of more effective ways to treat such pain, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that adding a low dose of the drug methadone to standard treatment can limit pain experienced by children with the condition.

The study is available online in the journal Pediatric Blood & Cancer.

“More than half of sickle cell patients have at least one episode of significant pain every year, and about 20 percent experience multiple episodes each year that require hospital stays,” said first author Jennifer Horst, MD, an instructor of pediatrics at the School of Medicine and an emergency room physician at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “In this study, the pediatric patients who received a one-time dose of methadone rated their pain levels much lower than those who took standard pain-killing drugs. In many cases, their pain went away, so we believe methadone has the potential to make life better for these pediatric patients.”

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