Sickle cell disease is the name given to a group of lifelong inherited conditions that affect haemoglobin. Most people affected are of African or African-Caribbean origin, 12,500 and 15,000 people in the UK are affected. Acute painful sickle cell episodes occur unpredictably, often without clear precipitating factors. Their frequency may vary from less than one episode a year to severe pain at least once a week. Pain can vary in both intensity and duration, and may be excruciating.
Most painful episodes are managed at home, with people usually seeking hospital care only if the pain is uncontrolled or they have no access to analgesia. The primary goal in the management is to achieve effective pain control both promptly and safely.