Physical, Mental, and Social Health of Adult Patients with Sickle Cell Disease after Allogeneic Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation: A Mixed-Methods Study

Elisabeth Dovern*, Sterre J. A. M. Nijland, Maud M. van Muilekom, Liesbeth M. J. Suijk, Gerianne M. Hoogendoorn, Hilda Mekelenkamp, Bart J. Biemond, Lotte Haverman, Erfan Nur

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Patients with sickle cell disease (SCD) experience a considerable physical and psychosocial disease burden. In recent years, the application of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) to treat adults with SCD has increased. A thorough understanding of patients’ physical, mental, and social health before and after cure is needed to meet the needs of this growing group of patients. We aimed to explore the perspectives of adult SCD patients on the changes in their experienced health and personal life goals after being cured. A mixed-methods approach was used, comprising a semistructured interview and a set of 9 Patient Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) measures. Adult SCD patients who underwent HSCT at least 1 year earlier were eligible to participate in the study. Interviews were thematically analyzed using MAXQDA software. PROMIS T scores were compared with reference scores of the general population using SPSS Statistics. Ten patients participated in the study; their median age was 29.5 years (range, 19 to 49 years), and their median time since HSCT was 2.7 years (range, 1.0 to 3.5 years). Themes from the interviews were (1) pain/living pain free, (2) physical well-being, (3) mental well-being, (4) perspective/ outlook, (5) education/work, (6) family/friends, and (7) activities/participation. Following the PROMIS framework, we described these themes in a narrative synthesis according to health domain and categorized in 4 chronological time phases: before HSCT, first year post-transplantation, current situation, and future expectations. Physical health improved greatly, but transplantation-related toxicity, ongoing pain from avascular osteonecrosis, and fatigue negatively impacted quality of life in some patients. Furthermore, emotional struggles during the post-transplantation period were common, and patients expressed a need for psychological help. Patients reported improvements in social health and the ability to pursue personal life goals. The mean T scores of all PROMIS measures fell within the normal symptom limits compared with reference data of the general population, although, large variations were observed among the participants, matching our qualitative findings. In general, adult SCD patients experienced improved physical, mental, and social health after cure by HSCT and were able to pursue personal life goals. Yet they found themselves confronted with a new and unfamiliar reality that brought different challenges. Pain due to irreversible avascular osteonecrosis continued to have a negative impact. Clinicians should aim to help patients have realistic expectations before transplantation and offer timely psychological care.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283.e1-283.e9
JournalTransplantation and Cellular Therapy
Issue number4
Early online date2023
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023
Externally publishedYes

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