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Study of Smart Watch Technology and Blood Tests to Track Sickle Cell Pain

Nov 24, 2020

The use of a smart watch-like sensor device along with a regimen of blood tests may be an effective tool to help determine what is happening in the body when sickle cell patients experience pain, according to a new study by researchers at the Sickle Cell Center at DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan. The study is published in the latest edition of Blood, the journal of the American Society of Hematology 

Researchers hope this study helps care providers better understand sickle cell pain and provide insight into the body’s reaction during pain episodes with the ultimate goal of helping to predict the onset of pain, leading to better pain management.

The six-month study involved 35 adolescent patients with sickle cell disease. These patients wore a wrist sensor known as an actigraphy, which measures activity and rest cycles. Information captured by the device was manually downloaded from the device to a computer every 3 weeks. At the same time blood samples were taken from patients to look for blood biomarkers that might provide insight to the onset of pain.

“A key finding of the study was that the data captured by the sensor device showed that sleep was interrupted and activity changed before and during pain episodes,” according to Michael Callaghan, M.D., pediatric hematologist and oncologist with DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan and Central Michigan University.

Dr. Callaghan says they were able to capture more than 100 pain episodes from study participants and identified several markers via the blood tests that may predict the onset of pain.

“While further research is needed, this innovative study demonstrates the potential feasibility of monitoring out-of-hospital pain using the actigraphy device,” said Dr. Callaghan.

The Sickle Cell Center at DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan led by Ahmar Zaidi, M.D., is leading a new national multicenter study looking at the use of actigraphy to track benefit of a new sickle cell medication.

In addition to the Sickle Cell Center at DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan and CMU, researchers form Children’s Hospital of Boston, Functional Fluidics, and Pfizer, Inc., took part in the study.

The Sickle Cell Center at DMC Children's Hospital of Michigan has a long history of providing multidisciplinary care along with research and comprehensive treatment for sickle cell patients. The center encompasses many leading clinicians and researchers who have devoted their life to the treatment of sickle cell disease.

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