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Sickle cell episodes 'must be treated as acute emergencies'

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Acute painful sickle cell episodes should be treated as acute medical emergencies, with analgesia offered to patients within 30 minutes of presenting at hospital, according to latest guidelines.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has published guidance on the management of acute painful sickle cell episodes in hospital.

Key recommendations include:

  • Treat an acute painful sickle cell episode as an acute medical emergency, and follow locally agreed protocols for managing the episodes that are consistent with this guideline.
  • Assess pain and use an age-appropriate pain scoring tool for all patients presenting at hospital with an acute painful sickle cell episode.
  • Offer analgesia within 30 minutes of presentation to all patients presenting at hospital with an acute painful sickle cell episode.

Mark Baker, director of the centre for clinical practice at NICE, said: “The management of this condition in hospitals is variable throughout the UK, and this is a frequent source of complaints from patients.

Common problems include unacceptable delays in receiving pain relief, insufficient or excessive doses, and stigmatising the patient as drug seeking.”

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