Background: The main treatment for tuberculosis is antituberculous drugs. Low energy laser therapy is used as an adjunct to antituberculous drugs, predominantly in the former Soviet Union and India.
Objectives: To assess the benefits and harms of low level laser therapy for treating tuberculosis in randomized and quasi-randomized controlled trials. To seek information about potential benefits or harms from observational studies.
Search strategy: We searched the Cochrane Infectious Diseases Group specialized trials register (up to June 2001), the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register (Issue 1, 2001), MEDLINE (1966 to December 2001), EMBASE (1988 to December 2001), CINAHL (up to November 2001), PEDro (up to November 2001), the Science Citation Index (up to December 2001), National Centre for Science Information at the Indian Institute of Science (15 April 2002), electronic catalogue of the Central Medical Library (Moscow; 1988 to January 2002), the internet using 'Google' (21 January 2002), and reference lists of articles. We contacted relevant organizations and researchers.
Selection criteria: (1) Randomized and quasi-randomized controlled trials comparing low level laser therapy with no low level laser therapy in people with tuberculosis. We also conducted a subsidiary analysis of of the potential benefits and harms from observational studies.
Data collection and analysis: Two reviewers independently assessed trial quality and extracted data. We contacted study authors for additional information. Adverse event information was collected from the studies.
Main results: No randomized or quasi-randomized controlled trials met the inclusion criteria for the review. The potential benefits and harms from 29 observational studies involving over 3500 people are described.
Reviewer's conclusions: We have not identified any well designed trials using low level laser therapy (LLLT) to treat tuberculosis. Therefore, the use of LLLT to treat tuberculosis is not supported by reliable evidence.