Integrative Medicine in Pain Management in Sickle Cell Disease: Assessing the Clinical Efficacy and Neurobiological Impact With Acupuncture

About the study

The proposed research is to determine the clinical efficacy and neurobiological mechanisms of acupuncture analgesia in patients with sickle cell disease.

Study point of contact

Ying Wang, MD, PhD
[email protected]
Ying Wang, MD, PhD
[email protected]


14 Years - 80 Years


Not Applicable

Study type







participation requirements

Any gender
14-17 (Adolescents) and 18-80 (Adults) years old
Either outpatient or inpatient or status changing between each other
Have been diagnosed with SCD (includes but not limited to SS, SC or other type) and experiencing chronic pain in the past 6 months or vaso-occlusive crisis (VOC) in the past 12 months.
Subjects with ongoing VOC (or hospitalization during enrollment will not be scheduled for QST and MRI sessions, other scheduled sessions will remain.
Analgesic therapy prescribed by primary hematologists (or physicians for emergency or primary care) including pain-relieving medications (e.g. Morphine, coderin, Fentanyl, Oxycodone), Hydroxyurea (e.g. Droxia, Hydrea, Siklos), L-glutamine oral powder (Endari), Crizanlizumab (Adakveo), Voxelotor (Oxbryta), and/or other palliative treatment allowed, not required.
Willing to limit the current and the introduction of any new medications or treatment modalities for control of pain symptoms during the study visits.
Able to travel to the study site for participating scheduled visits (questionnaires, QST, EEG and MRI) and receive acupuncture treatments up to two times weekly for 5 weeks as scheduled.
We will recruit without regard to ethnicity, however, due to the genetic nature of SCD, subjects will primarily be African-American or of African descent, although there are individuals with SCD who come from Hispanic, southern European, Middle Eastern, or Asian Indian backgrounds. The ethnic distribution in our prior studies is 95% Black/African American with 5% Hispanic or Latino (of any race). As these are minority groups many individuals may be from lower income situations.
Fluent in English and capable of giving written informed consent.

participation restrictions

Subjects with Covid-19 suspicion or confirmation
Recent/ongoing alternative pain management with acupuncture or acupuncture-related techniques within the last 6-months.
Presence of a known coagulation abnormality: Thrombocytopenia (mild thrombocytopenia with a platelets range of 51,000-100,000/ul will be further evaluated for inclusion consideration), or bleeding diathesis that may preclude the safe use of acupuncture.
Presence of a concurrent autoimmune or inflammatory disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, inflammatory bowel disease, etc. that causes pain or any other chronic pain condition with pain greater than sickle pain.

Diseases/conditions history includes but not limited to:

head injury with substantial loss of consciousness
peripheral neuropathy of known cause that interferes with activities of daily living
known non-SCD related Severe psychiatric illnesses (e.g. current schizophrenia, major depression with suicidal ideation).
significant visual, motor, or auditory impairment that would interfere with ability to perform study visits-related activities

Recent (30 days) initiation or dose adjustment of stimulant medications, such as those used to treat ADD/ADHD (e.g., amphetamine/dextroamphetamine [Adderall®], methylphenidate, dextroamphetamine), or the fatigue associated with sleep apnea or shift work (e.g., modafinil).

Contraindications to MRI scans includes but are not limited to: surgical clips, surgical staples, metal implants, cardiac rhythmic disorders, seizure disorders, and certain metallic dental material will not be scheduled for MRI visits.
History vascular surgery in lower limbs or current lower limb vascular dysfunction will not receive conditioned pressure pain stimuli in the lower limb.
Subjects with Worker’s Compensation, Workman’s Compensation, civil litigation or disability claims pertinent to the subject’s sickle disease; current involvement in out-of-court settlements for claims pertinent to the subject’s sickle disease; or currently receiving monetary compensation as a result of any of the above.
Participation of other studies: Concurrent participation in other therapeutic trials with overlapping research purposes.
Pregnant or nursing.

Last updated 2022-02-04