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Past trends have shown that men are more likely than women to receive opioids in the emergency department for the management of acute pain. This cross-sectional study, published in The American Journal of Emergency Medicine, examined recent data to see if this disparity persists among men and women admitted to the emergency department for sickle cell disease (SCD).  

A total of 644 emergency department visits for SCD were analyzed between 2006 and 2015. Sex differences in the use of opioid pain management were evaluated after adjusting for patient age, diagnosis, insurance status, pain score, and region. 

Ultimately, the researchers found no significant difference in the number of opioid prescriptions received by male and female patients with SCD. However, male patients were 1.5 times more likely than female patients with the same diagnosis to receive opioid pain management. Moreover, female patients with SCD were also found to be more likely to be labeled with “other” complaints and accounted for a minority (44.5%) of the emergency department visits studied. 

The researchers concluded that their findings imply that a bias still exists in the healthcare system resulting in lower rates of emergency care utilization and opioid pain management among women with SCD. A call to action is made for further research on this disparity and greater oversight of emergency pain management of SCD with the aim of providing equitable care [1].


[1] Wilson, T. T., Chou, S. C., Becker, S., Schuur, J. D., & Beaudoin, F. (2021). Evaluation of sex disparities in opioid use among ED patients with sickle cell disease, 2006–2015. The American Journal of Emergency Medicine, 50, 597–601. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajem.2021.09.023

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