Tech Briefs

Using Light To Treat Mucositis and Help Wounds Heal

Arrays of LEDs would generate biostimulatory radiation.

A continuing program of research and development is focusing on the use of controlled illumination by light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to treat mucositis and to accelerate healing of wounds. The basic idea is to illuminate the affected area of a patient with light of an intensity, duration, and wavelength (or combination of wavelengths) chosen to produce a therapeutic effect while generating only a minimal amount
of heat.

This method of treatment was originally intended for treating the mucositis that is a common complication of chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer. It is now also under consideration as a means to accelerate the healing of wounds and possibly also to treat exposure to chemical and radioactive warfare agents.

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Apparatuses Containing Arrays of LEDs could range from a hand-held unit for treating oral mucositisto something as large as a radiation bed or a radiation booth (not shown here) for treating mucositisthroughout the gastrointestinal tract from the head down through the intestines.
Radiation therapy and many chemotherapeutic drugs often damage the mucosal linings of the mouth and gastrointestinal tract, leading to mouth ulcers (oral mucositis), nausea, and diarrhea. Hyperbaric-oxygen therapy is currently the standard of care for ischemic, hypoxic, infected, and otherwise slowly healing problem wounds, including those of oral mucositis. Hyperbaric-oxygen therapy increases such cellular activities as collagen production and angiogenesis, leading to an increased rate of healing. Biostimulation by use of laser light has also been found to be effective in treating mucositis. For hyperbaricoxygen treatment, a patient must remain inside a hyperbaric chamber for an extended time. Laser treatment is limited by laser-wavelength capabilities and by narrowness of laser beams, and usually entails the generation of significant amounts of heat.

The present method offers an attractive alternative to hyperbaric-oxygen and laser treatments: It is not necessary to confine the patient to a hyperbaric chamber, treatment times are relatively short, LED arrays can illuminate large areas, and the exposure of the patient to heat generated by an LED array can readily be limited.