UT Sickle Cell Center Expands to Offer Holistic Care and Pain Management Services

Margarida Azevedo, MSc avatar

by Margarida Azevedo, MSc |

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The UT Physicians Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center has expanded its facilities in response to the needs of an increasing number of people living with sickle cell disease (SCD) who suffer from chronic pain, the university announced in a press release.

The new center will offer sub-specialty, social and behavioral health services for a holistic approach to patient care.

“Having the facility and care available at one place is key,” Harinder S. Juneja, MD, lead project physician at the center, said in the UTHealth release. “Sickle cell patients need a multidisciplinary team that can care for their unique needs and prevent visits to the emergency room.”

The idea is that patients have access to care as well as resources to assist them in managing the pain themselves. Infusion rooms are designed to help keep patients comfortable and relaxed, with TVs, treatment recliners, privacy curtains, pillows, heated blankets and IV therapy to hydrate them while doctors monitor their pain.

“It is quiet and they get the attention they need there,” Juneja added. “We can’t take your pain away, but we can help get it to a controlled state.”

SCD is a genetic disorder that causes red blood cells to become sickle-shaped – or curved, not round. A red blood cell’s regular shape allows it to move easily through blood vessels to deliver oxygen, but in SCD red blood cells stick to vessel walls, preventing blood and oxygen flow. This is why SCD patients often experience ‘pain crises,’ which can last several days.

“If you sat on your leg for several hours and it began to hurt, that pain is what sickle cell patients experience as a common occurrence,” said Sarah J. Abke, MBA, senior practice manager at the center.

UT Physicians is the medical practice of McGovern Medical School, at the University of Texas Health Science Center (UTHealth) in Houston.