Radiation-induced mucositis: a randomized clinical trial of micronized sucralfate versus salt & soda mouthwashes

Cancer Invest. 2003;21(1):21-33. doi: 10.1081/cnv-120016400.


Oral mucositis is one of the major toxicities caused by radiation therapy (RT) treatments to the head and neck. The clinical efficacy of sucralfate (Carafate R) mouthwash for head and neck cancer patients (HNC) is not consistent across studies. In this study, it was hypothesized that if the particles in the original sucralfate suspension were micronized (i.e., < or = 25 microns) then the coating action of the mouthwash in the oral cavity would be enhanced. The purpose of this pilot study was to compare the efficacy of micronized sucralfate (Carafate R) mouthwash and salt & soda mouthwash in terms of the severity of the mucositis, the severity of mucositis-related pain, and the time required to heal RT-induced mucositis in patients with HNC. Severe mucositis and related pain can interfere with the ingestion of food and fluids, so patients' body weights were measured as well. All patients in this randomized clinical trial carried out a systematic oral hygiene protocol called the PRO-SELF: Mouth Aware (PSMA) Program. Patients who developed RT-induced mucositis anytime during their course of RT were randomized to one of the two mouthwashes and followed to the completion of RT and at one month following RT. Two referral sites were used for the study. Repeated measures occurred with the following instruments/variables: MacDibbs Mouth Assessment and weight. Demographic, disease, and cancer treatment information was also obtained. Thirty patients successfully completed the study. The typical participant was male (70%), married/partnered (70%), White (63%), not working or retired (73%), and had an average of 14.5 years of education (SD = 3.7). T-tests and Chi-square analyses with an alpha set at 0.05 were used to compare differences between the two mouthwashes. No significant differences were found in the number of days to onset of mucositis (i.e., 16 +/- 8.4 days). When patients had their worst MacDibbs score, (i.e., the most severe mucositis), there were no significant differences between the mouthwashes as to MacDibbs score, the RT dose received, or ratings of pain (upon swallowing). Similarly, at the end of RT, no significant differences were found between mouthwashes as to MacDibbs scores or ratings of pain (upon swallowing). At the one-month follow-up assessment no significant differences were found between the mouthwashes in MacDibbs scores or pain ratings (upon swallowing). The analysis of the efficacy of the two mouthwashes revealed no significant differences in the time to heal (in days) from the RT-induced mucositis. The findings from this trial provide important clinical information regarding cost analysis of RT mucositis management. Given that there is no significant difference in efficacy between micronized sucralfate and salt & soda, use of the less costly salt & soda is prudent and cost-effective.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Emulsions
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouthwashes / administration & dosage
  • Mouthwashes / therapeutic use*
  • Oral Hygiene
  • Oral Ulcer / drug therapy
  • Oral Ulcer / etiology
  • Pain Measurement
  • Particle Size
  • Pilot Projects
  • Radiation Injuries / drug therapy*
  • Radiation Injuries / etiology
  • Radiotherapy / adverse effects*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Sodium Bicarbonate / therapeutic use*
  • Sodium Chloride / therapeutic use*
  • Stomatitis / drug therapy*
  • Stomatitis / etiology
  • Sucralfate / administration & dosage
  • Sucralfate / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Weight Loss


  • Emulsions
  • Mouthwashes
  • Sodium Chloride
  • Sucralfate
  • Sodium Bicarbonate