Objective To assess the efficacy of oral low-level laser therapy (LLLT) – also known as photobiomodulation – in the reduction of oral mucositis experienced by children and young people with cancer undergoing chemotherapy.
Design A systematic review to evaluate the efficacy of oral LLLT for oral mucositis in children with cancer and the safety of oral LLLT in any age with cancer (International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews/PROSPERO registration: CRD42018099772). Multiple databases and grey literature were screened. Randomised controlled trials were considered for assessing efficacy, and all studies were considered for assessing safety. Primary outcomes included severity of oral mucositis, oral pain and adverse events. Where results were compatible, meta-analysis was performed using a random-effects model. A narrative synthesis considered other outcome measures.
Results 14 studies (n>416 children) were included in the narrative synthesis of LLLT efficacy. 5 studies (n=380 children and young people) were included in the meta-analyses. Results demonstrate that LLLT may reduce the severity of oral mucositis and the level of oral pain, but further randomised controlled trials are needed to confirm or deny this. There is vast variation in different trial protocols. Insufficient blinding between LLLT or sham therapy/control led to a strong risk of performance bias. 75 studies (encompassing 2712 patients of all ages who had undergone LLLT) demonstrated minor and infrequent adverse reactions, but most studies had significant areas of weakness in quality.
Conclusion LLLT appears to be a safe therapy, but further evidence is needed to assess its efficacy as a prevention or treatment tool for oral mucositis in children with cancer.
Data availability statement
Data are available upon reasonable request. All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.
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