Phototherapy in peripheral nerve regeneration: From basic science to clinical study

Neurosurg Focus. 2009 Feb;26(2):E8. 

Rochkind S

OBJECT: This review summarizes the continuous study of low-power laser radiation treatment of a severely injured peripheral nerve. Laserphototherapy was applied as a supportive factor for accelerating and enhancing axonal growth and regeneration after injury or a reconstructive peripheral nerve procedure. In nerve cell cultures, laser phototherapy was used to stimulate activation of nerve cells.

METHODS: Low-power laser radiation was used for treatment of peripheral nerve injury using a rat sciatic nerve model after crush injury, neurorrhaphy, or neurotube reconstruction. Nerve cell growth and axonal sprouting were investigated using laser phototherapy on embryonic rat brain cultures. The outcome in animal studies facilitated a clinical double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study that measured the effectiveness of 780-nm laser phototherapy on patients suffering from incomplete peripheral nerve injuries for 6 months to several years.

RESULTS: Animal studies showed that laser phototherapy has an immediate protective effect, maintains functional activity of the injured nerve, decreases scar tissue formation at the injury site, decreases degeneration in corresponding motor neurons of the spinal cord, and significantly increases axonal growth and myelinization. In cell cultures, laser irradiation accelerates migration, nerve cell growth, and fiber sprouting. A pilot clinical double-blind, placebocontrolled, randomized study showed that in patients with incomplete long-term peripheral nerve injury, 780-nm laserradiation can progressively improve peripheral nerve function, which leads to significant functional recovery.

CONCLUSIONS: Using 780-nm lase phototherapy accelerates and enhances axonal growth and regeneration after injury or a reconstructive peripheral nerve procedure. Laser activation of nerve cells, their growth, and axonal sprouting can be considered as potential treatment of neuronal injury. Animal and clinical studies show the promoting action of phototherapy on peripheral nerve regeneration, making it possible to suggest that the time for broader clinical trials has arrived

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