UMEM Educational Pearls

Intranasal medications are an increasingly popular option for pediatric patients, particularly for analgesia and anxiolysis, with an increasing number of medications being used via the intranasal route of administration. 

Fentanyl has been shown in prior studies to be a safe and effective pain management strategy for children, but is likely under utilized. In sickle cell patients, studies have shown that time to analgesia may improve outcomes including hospitalization. 

In 2023, Rees et al. showed that in the sickle cell patient population IN fentanyl can be a very effective tool for patient's experiencing a Vaso-occlusive episode (VOE). This study looked at 400 children with a mean age of 14.6 years. Of these 19% received IN fentanyl.

Ultimately, the IN fentanyl patient population had a shorter time to initial administration of analgesia and a lower chance of admission to the hospital. 

Notably, this was not a randomized study, so there is limitations in assessment of the causality of the lower discharge rates. However this is a tool that could likely be used more regularly in the pediatric sickle cell patient population to allow for more rapid pain management in the emergency department.


1. Payne J, Aban I, Hilliard LM, Madison J, Bemrich-Stolz C, Howard TH, Brandow A, Waite E, Lebensburger JD. Impact of early analgesia on hospitalization outcomes for sickle cell pain crisis. Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2018 Dec;65(12):e27420. doi: 10.1002/pbc.27420. Epub 2018 Aug 27. PMID: 30151977; PMCID: PMC6192851.

2. Rees CA, Brousseau DC, Ahmad FA, Bennett J, Bhatt S, Bogie A, Brown KM, Casper TC, Chapman LL, Chumpitazi CE, Cohen DM, Dampier C, Ellison AM, Grasemann H, Hatabah D, Hickey RW, Hsu LL, Bakshi N, Leibovich S, Patil P, Powell EC, Richards R, Sarnaik S, Weiner DL, Morris CR; SCD Arginine Study Group and PECARN. Intranasal fentanyl and discharge from the emergency department among children with sickle cell disease and vaso-occlusive pain: A multicenter pediatric emergency medicine perspective. Am J Hematol. 2023 Apr;98(4):620-627. doi: 10.1002/ajh.26837. Epub 2023 Feb 6. PMID: 36606705; PMCID: PMC10023395.