Shih, A., Miaskowski, C., Dodd, M. J., Stotts, N.A., & MacPhail, L. (2002). A research review of the current treatments for radiation-induced oral mucositis in patients with head and neck cancer. Oncology Nursing Forum, 29, 1063–1078.doi: 10.1188/02.ONF.1063-1080
More than 50 studies were included. Most were randomized, controlled trials; some were pilot or descriptive studies.
Sample sizes ranged from 10 to more than 200.
Based on the findings of studies conducted to date, no conclusions regarding the agents and their ability to decrease the severity of radiation-induced oral mucositis were possible. Results were inconsistent. The most effective measure to treat radiation-induced mucositis was frequent oral rinsing with a bland mouthwash such as saline or sodium bicarbonate. Consistent oral care, dental care, oral assessment, and standardized oral hygiene were the suggested approaches to managing oral mucositis. Sodium bicarbonate reduces the acidity of the oral fluids immediately; it also dilutes accumulating mucus and discourages yeast colonization.
Findings related to benzydamine were inconsistent. In a trial of chlorhexidine versus benzydamine, patients reported more discomfort with benzydamine and were more likely to discontinue participation in the trial. Chlorhexidine was not effective in reducing the severity of mucositis in three double-blind, placebo-controlled trials. Two trials that examined antimicrobial activity failed to show any significant effects on the suppression of any type of oral flora using chlorhexidine.
Dose variations in granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor (subcutaneous) trials make it impossible to determine whether this agent has a role in the radiation setting.
Four studies investigated the effectiveness of using topical antibiotics with a more specific spectrum for gram-negative bacteria and yeast. Two placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trials, both with fewer than 100 patients, and one case-controlled study investigated the efficacy of amphotericin B (polymyxis E, tobramycin, and amphotericin B [PTA] lozenge) to reduce the severity of radiation-induced mucositis. One study examined tetracaine and antibiotics. Additional work is warranted to determine the effects of the PTA lozenge on mucositis severity, pain severity, and dysphagia. Results for the trial were promising; however, conclusions cannot be drawn because only one study examined tetracaine.
Additional investigation of immunoglobulin and povidone-iodine are recommended.