Despite the identified pathophysiology of vaso-occlusive pain in sickle cell disease (SCD), predictors of pain in youth with SCD remain elusive. In this study, we measured changes in pain frequency, intensity, and interference over 1 year and examined biopsychosocial risk factors (SCD disease severity, age, female, depression, and sleep quality) as possible longitudinal predictors.
Medical history was obtained from retrospective chart review for 79 children with SCD (ages 2–18 years; 48.1% female; 100% Black/African American; 83.5% SCD, SS genotype). As part of a clinical screening protocol, caregivers (n = 79) and youth 8–18 years (n = 43) completed psychosocial questionnaires approximately 1 year apart (M = 15.52 months, SD = 5.69). Zero-order correlations, paired t-tests, and hierarchical linear models examined longitudinal predictors of pain. The longitudinal bidirectional relationship between pain and sleep was also examined.
The rate of severe SCD disease increased from 41.8% to 55.7% across the year, while most hematologic medical parameters remained stable. Increased depression and pain interference at survey 1 significantly predicted increased pain interference at survey 2. Poor sleep quality and increased pain frequency at survey 1 predicted increased pain frequency at survey 2. Finally, increased pain interference at survey 1 predicted poor sleep quality at survey 2.
History of pain, depression, and sleep quality were longitudinal predictors of pain over 1 year in youth with SCD. Identifying longitudinal predictors of pain may lead to earlier identification of patients with a high-risk SCD pain phenotype and earlier medical, psychological, and behavioral interventions.