Quantitative sensory testing and pain-evoked cytokine reactivity: Comparison of patients with sickle cell disease to healthy matched controls

Claudia M. Campbell, C. Patrick Carroll, Kasey Kiley, Dingfen Han, Carlton Haywood, Sophie Lanzkron, Lauren Swedberg, Robert R. Edwards, Gayle G. Page, Jennifer A. Haythornthwaite

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sickle cell disease (SCD) is an inherited blood disorder associated with significant morbidity, which includes severe episodic pain, and, often, chronic pain. Compared to healthy individuals, patients with SCD report enhanced sensitivity to thermal detection and pain thresholds and have altered inflammatory profiles, yet no studies to date have examined biomarker reactivity after laboratory-induced pain. We sought to examine this relationship in patients with SCD compared to healthy control participants. We completed quantitative sensory testing in 83 patients with SCD and sequential blood sampling in 27 of them, whom we matched (sex, age, race, body mass index, and education) to 27 healthy controls. Surprisingly, few quantitative sensory testing differences emerged between groups. Heat pain tolerance, pressure pain threshold at the trapezius, thumb, and quadriceps, and thermal temporal summation at 45°C differed between groups in the expected direction, whereas conditioned pain modulation and pain ratings to hot water hand immersion were counterintuitive, possibly because of tailoring the water temperature to a perceptual level; patients with SCD received milder temperatures. In the matched subsample, group differences and group-by-time interactions were observed in biomarkers including tumor necrosis factor alpha, interleukin-1β, interleukin-4, and neuropeptide Y. These findings highlight the utility of laboratory pain testing methods for understanding individual differences in inflammatory cytokines. Our findings suggest amplified pain-evoked proinflammatory cytokine reactivity among patients with SCD relative to carefully matched controls. Future research is warranted to evaluate the impact of enhanced pain-related cytokine response and whether it is predictive of clinical characteristics and the frequency/severity of pain crises in patients with SCD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)949-956
Number of pages8
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016


  • QST
  • Sickle cell disease
  • central sensitization
  • clinical pain
  • cytokines
  • inflammation
  • laboratory pain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Quantitative sensory testing and pain-evoked cytokine reactivity: Comparison of patients with sickle cell disease to healthy matched controls'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this