Sickle cell disease is one of the most common and severe genetic disorders in the world. It can be broadly divided into two distinct clinical phenotypes characterized by either haemolysis or vaso-occlusion. Pain is the most prominent symptom of vaso-occlusion, and hypercoagulability is a well-established pathogenic phenomenon in people with sickle cell disease. Low-molecular-weight heparins might control this hypercoagulable state through their anticoagulant effect. This is an update of a previously published version of this review.
To assess the effects of low-molecular-weight heparins for managing vaso-occlusive crises in people with sickle cell disease.
We searched the Cochrane Cystic Fibrosis and Genetic Disorders Group Haemoglobinopathies Trials Register comprising references identified from comprehensive electronic database searches. We also searched abstract books of conference proceedings and several online trials registries for ongoing trials.Date of the last search of the Cochrane Cystic Fibrosis and Genetic Disorders Group Haemoglobinopathies Trials Register: 28 September 2015.
Randomised controlled clinical trials and controlled clinical trials that assessed the effects of low-molecular-weight heparins in the management of vaso-occlusive crises in people with sickle cell disease.
Study selection, data extraction, assessment of risk of bias and analyses were carried out independently by the two review authors.
Two studies comprising 287 participants were included. One study (with an overall unclear to high risk of bias) involved 253 participants and the quality of the evidence for most outcomes was very low. This study, reported that pain severity at day two and day three was lower in the tinzaparin group than in the placebo group (P < 0.01, analysis of variance (ANOVA)) and additionally at day 4 (P < 0.05 (ANOVA)). Thus tinzaparin resulted in more rapid resolution of pain, as measured with a numerical pain scale. The mean difference in duration of painful crises was statistically significant at -1.78 days in favour of the tinzaparin group (95% confidence interval -1.94 to -1.62). Participants treated with tinzaparin had statistically significantly fewer hospitalisation days than participants in the group treated with placebo, with a mean difference of -4.98 days (95% confidence interval -5.48 to -4.48). Two minor bleeding events were reported as adverse events in the tinzaparin group, and none were reported in the placebo group. The second study (unclear risk of bias) including 34 participants and was a conference abstract with limited data and only addressed one of the predefined outcomes of the review; i.e. pain intensity. After one day pain intensity reduced more, as reported on a visual analogue scale, in the dalteparin group than in the placebo group, mean difference -1.30 (95% confidence interval -1.60 to -1.00), with the quality of evidence rated very low. The most important reasons for downgrading the quality of evidence were serious risk of bias and imprecision (due to low sample size or low occurrence of events).
Based on the results of two studies, evidence is incomplete to support or refute the effectiveness of low-molecular-weight heparins in people with sickle cell disease. Vaso-occlusive crises are extremely debilitating for sufferers of sickle cell disease; therefore well-designed placebo-controlled studies with other types of low-molecular-weight heparins, and in participants with different genotypes of sickle cell disease, still need to be carried out to confirm or dismiss the results of this single study.