The National Institutes of Health recently awarded the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) College of Nursing a grant through its Helping to End Addiction Long-term Initiative.
Nursing collegiate professor Ardith Doorenbos will lead a team of researchers to determine the effectiveness of acupuncture and guided relaxation for people suffering from chronic pain caused by sickle cell disease. It will be a five-year national study totaling $7.1 million.
A total of 360 patients will receive acupuncture twice a week for five weeks and will be asked to use guided relaxation techniques daily.
At least 20 million people worldwide, including approximately 100,000 people in the United States, have sickle cell disease. It is characterized by crescent-shaped red blood cells that obstruct small blood vessels, depriving the body’s tissues of oxygen. The disease also can damage organs and cause extreme pain.
Pain is often treated with opioids.
“We’re trying to do what we can to reduce opioid use in the sickle cell disease population who have high pain levels and opioid use,” Doorenbos said. “ If we can find ways to manage their pain and get them off opioids, it’s going to be fabulous.”
According to the American Journal of Hematology, annually, the disease causes an estimated $2.4 billion in annual U.S. healthcare costs.