, Volume 20, Issue 11, pp 2977-2984
Date: 09 Aug 2012

A systematic review of the effect of low-level laser therapy in the management of breast cancer-related lymphedema

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study was to review the effect of low-level laser therapy (LLLT) in the management of breast cancer-related lymphedema (BCRL).

Methods

A systematic review of seven databases for clinical trials for LLLT in the management of BCRL published between 1990 and 2011 was performed.

Results

A total of eight studies on 230 patients were found. The methodological qualities of the selected studies were assessed with the Physiotherapy Evidence Database scale, and the studies were categorized according to Sackett’s levels of evidence. Five studies were graded at evidence level II. Two studies were graded at evidence level III, and the remaining study was graded at evidence level V.

Conclusions

There is moderate to strong evidence for the effectiveness of LLLT for the management of BCRL from five small studies of acceptable methodological quality. A dose of 1–2 J/cm2 per point applied to several points covering the fibrotic area can reduce limb volume following BCRL. Further well-designed, large-scale studies are required to determine more precisely how effective LLLT may be in BCRL.