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Hyaluronic acid injections for treatment of pediatric sickle cell avascular necrosis of the humeral head


Background Avascular necrosis (AVN) can impact up to 50% of patients with sickle cell disease (SCD) and can result in significant pain, decline in physical function and decreased quality of life. While hyaluronic acid (HA) has been used in the adult population for shoulder osteoarthritic pain, we present the first published pediatric case of HA injections in the glenohumeral joint, used to improve function and pain control.

Case presentation The patient is a 12-year-old woman with SCD, who suffered from chronic pain due to AVN of the humeral and femoral head. Despite engaging in a multidisciplinary pain management plan, she continued to have severe decline in physical functioning and became a wheelchair user. As a result, she was scheduled for a right total hip arthroplasty, which necessitated aggressive postoperative therapies using the glenohumeral joint. To improve this pain and to facilitate postoperative recovery, the patient underwent 4 weekly HA injections into the glenohumeral joint. Over a 2-month period, the patient was able to improve physical functioning, decrease opiate use and participate in all postoperative therapies.

Conclusion Conservative options to improve functioning and pain are especially important in pediatric patients where it may be desirable to delay surgical interventions until skeletal maturity. Our case report demonstrates the benefits of intra-articular HA as part of a multidisciplinary pain management plan to improve function and decrease pain related to AVN of the humeral head. Future studies should assess the long-term benefits of HA injections for AVN in the setting of SCD.

  • chronic pain
  • pain management
  • pediatrics

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