Preliminary Feasibility and Efficacy of Behavioral Intervention to Reduce Pain-Related Disability in Pediatric SCD

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Children's National




Sickle Cell Disease


Behavioral: The Balance Program

Study type


Funder types




Details and patient eligibility


Pain is the primary complication of sickle cell disease (SCD), including vaso-occlusive crises and more persistent, chronic pain. SCD-related pain is associated with significant functional impairment, spanning poor school attendance, decreased quality of life, and stress and mood difficulties. Pharmacological approaches are the first-line treatment for SCD-related pain, but these can be costly and have unwanted side effects. Given limitations from pharmacological approaches and the influence that poor behavioral responses have on disease management and health outcomes suggest a critical need for alternative and adjunctive treatments. Due to gaps in available behavioral treatments specifically designed for addressing common challenges associated with pain management in pediatric SCD, the investigators developed a manualized behavioral therapy protocol by tailoring existing evidence-based treatments. The overall goal of the intervention is to reduce the impact of pain on daily functioning in pediatric SCD. This study will empirically test the feasibility and preliminary efficacy of this intervention for youth with SCD. Children and adolescents with SCD between the ages of 8 and 17 years old (n=20) will be recruited to complete the treatment protocol. Feasibility will be assessed by examining participation and program completion rates, as well as feedback from a treatment acceptability questionnaire and qualitative interview. Participants will complete baseline assessments, weekly questionnaires, and post-treatment assessments (post-intervention assessment, follow-up time points: 1-month following the intervention, and 3-months following the intervention).


22 patients




8 to 17 years old


No Healthy Volunteers

Inclusion criteria

  • Children and adolescents with SCD (HbSS, HbSC, HbS-beta0 thalassemia, or HbS-beta+ thalassemia) between the ages of 8 and 17 years old with pain-related disability and who are currently prescribed short- or long-acting opioid medications.

    1. Participants will meet at least one of the following criteria for pain-related disability: 1) Have had at least 3 pain crises in the last year, 2) Have had at least one admission for pain in the last year, or 3) Have missed at least one week of school (5 days) in the last year
    2. Current prescription of opioids will be confirmed by participants' primary hematologist, review of the electronic medical record, and discussion with the family.

Exclusion criteria

  • Patients and caregivers with limited English proficiency, a neurodevelopmental delay, or a visual or motor impairment that would interfere with their ability to complete the assessments and intervention.
  • Documented history of major depressive disorder in medical record and/or through discussion with their primary hematology suggesting that patients may need a specific and higher level of therapeutic care.
  • Patients have regularly scheduled outpatient therapy sessions outside of the study.

Trial design

Primary purpose




Interventional model

Single Group Assignment


None (Open label)

22 participants in 1 patient group

Behavioral Intervention
Experimental group
Children and adolescents with SCD between the ages of 8 and 17 years old (n=20) will be recruited to complete a four-week behavioral intervention designed to reduce pain-related impairment in SCD.
Behavioral: The Balance Program

Trial contacts and locations



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