Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 19, Issue 8, pp 1069–1077 | Cite as

A systematic review with meta-analysis of the effect of low-level laser therapy (LLLT) in cancer therapy-induced oral mucositis

  • Jan Magnus BjordalEmail author
  • Rene-Jean Bensadoun
  • Jan Tunèr
  • Lucio Frigo
  • Kjersti Gjerde
  • Rodrigo AB Lopes-Martins
Review Article



The purpose of this study is to review the effects of low-level laser therapy (LLLT) in the prevention and treatment of cancer therapy-induced oral mucositis (OM).


A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised placebo-controlled trials of LLLT performed during chemotherapy or radiation therapy in head and neck cancer patients.


We found 11 randomised placebo-controlled trials with a total of 415 patients; methodological quality was acceptable at 4.10 (SD ± 0.74) on the 5-point Jadad scale. The relative risk (RR) for developing OM was significantly (p = 0.02) reduced after LLLT compared with placebo LLLT (RR = 2.03 (95% CI, 1.11 to 3.69)). This preventive effect of LLLT improved to RR = 2.72 (95% CI, 1.98 to 3.74) when only trials with adequate doses above 1 J were included. For treatment of OM ulcers, the number of days with OM grade 2 or worse was significantly reduced after LLLT to 4.38 (95% CI, 3.35 to 5.40) days less than placebo LLLT. Oral mucositis severity was also reduced after LLLT with a standardised mean difference of 1.33 (95% CI, 0.68 to 1.98) over placebo LLLT. All studies registered possible side-effects, but they were not significantly different from placebo LLLT.


There is consistent evidence from small high-quality studies that red and infrared LLLT can partly prevent development of cancer therapy-induced OM. LLLT also significantly reduced pain, severity and duration of symptoms in patients with cancer therapy-induced OM.


Low-level laser therapy Oral mucositis Cancer Chemotherapy Radiation therapy 



Post-mortem to professor Anne Elisabeth Ljunggren for her encouragement and contribution to the early work on this manuscript. Unfortunately, she was unable to see its completion.

Conflicts of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jan Magnus Bjordal
    • 1
    Email author
  • Rene-Jean Bensadoun
    • 2
  • Jan Tunèr
    • 3
  • Lucio Frigo
    • 4
  • Kjersti Gjerde
    • 5
  • Rodrigo AB Lopes-Martins
    • 6
    • 7
  1. 1.Centre for Evidence-Based PracticeBergen University College-HiBBergenNorway
  2. 2.Service d’Oncologie RadiothérapiquePoitiers CedexFrance
  3. 3.Grängesberg Dental ClinicGrängesbergSweden
  4. 4.University of Cruzeiro do SulSao Miguel PaulistaBrazil
  5. 5.Department of Clinical OdontologyUniversity of BergenBergenNorway
  6. 6.Institute of Biomedical SciencesUniversity of São Paulo (USP)São PauloBrazil
  7. 7.Centro de Pesquisa Clínica em Biofotônica Aplicada às Ciências da SaúdeUniversidade Nove de JulhoSão PauloBrazil

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