A Prospective Emergency Department Quality Improvement Project to Improve the Treatment of Vaso-Occlusive Crisis in Sickle Cell Disease: Lessons Learned.

Journal Article


Guidelines recommend rapid, aggressive management of vaso-occlusive crisis (VOC) for patients with sickle cell disease (SCD). A large prospective research and quality improvement (QI) project was conducted to measure changes in clinical outcomes in two EDs-academic medical centers with emergency medicine residency programs and Level 1 trauma centers-during a 2.5-year time period (October 2011-March 2014).


A QI team used a Plan-Do-Study-Act approach to modify and implement changes to opioid analgesic protocols for the emergency department (ED) treatment of VOC. Data were collected quarterly; the team reviewed the results and made modifications to improve outcomes. A structured health record review was conducted to assess clinical outcomes (10 records/quarter/site). Patient interviews were conducted to measure satisfaction with pain management. Outcomes were compared before (T1) and after (T2) implementation of an electronic health record (EHR).


One hundred ninety-six ED health records (118 unique patients, mean age = 32 [standard deviation, 11], 51% male) were analyzed. Before implementation, trends in decreasing time to initial analgesic administration were noted. There was a statistically significant increase in arrival to administration of first analgesic time between T1 and T2 at Site 1 but not at Site 2. Neither site showed significant changes in time between the administration of the first and second opioid doses, total opioid dose administered, or patient satisfaction.


While QI efforts initially shortened door-to-analgesic times, these gains were not sustained. The lessons learned can help other EDs improve the timely delivery of analgesics to patients with SCD.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Tanabe, P; Freiermuth, CE; Cline, DM; Silva, S

Published Date

  • March 2017

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 43 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 116 - 126

PubMed ID

  • 28334590

Pubmed Central ID

  • 28334590

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1938-131X

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1553-7250

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.jcjq.2016.12.005


  • eng