The efficacy of low-power lasers in tissue repair and pain control: a meta-analysis study

Photomed Laser Surg. 2004 Aug;22(4):323-9. doi: 10.1089/pho.2004.22.323.


Objective: We used statistical meta-analysis to determine the overall treatment effects of laser phototherapy on tissue repair and pain relief.

Background data: Low-power laser devices were first used as a form of therapy more than 30 years ago. However, their efficacy in reducing pain or promoting tissue repair remains questionable.

Methods: Following a literature search, studies meeting our inclusion criteria were identified and coded. Then, the effect size of laser treatment, that is, Cohen's d, was calculated from each study using standard meta-analysis procedures.

Results: Thirty-four peer-reviewed papers on tissue repair met our inclusion criteria and were used to calculate 46 treatment effect sizes. Nine peer-reviewed papers on pain control met the inclusion criteria and were used to calculate nine effect sizes. Meta-analysis revealed a positive effect of laser phototherapy on tissue repair (d = +1.81; n = 46) and pain control (d = +1.11; n = 9). The positive effect of treatment on specific indices of tissue repair was evident in the treatment effect sizes determined as follows: collagen formation (d = +2.78), rate of healing (d = +1.57), tensile strength (d = +2.13), time needed for wound closure (d = +0.76), tensile stress (d = +2.65), number and rate of degranulation of mast cells (d = +1.87), and flap survival (d = +1.95). Further, analysis revealed the positive effects of various wavelengths of laser light on tissue repair, with 632.8 nm having the highest treatment effect (d = +2.44) and 780 nm the least (d = 0.60). The overall treatment effect for pain control was positive as well (d = +1.11). The fail-safe number-that is, the number of studies in which laser phototherapy has negative or no effect-needed to nullify the overall outcome of this analysis was 370 for tissue repair and 41 for pain control.

Conclusions: These findings mandate the conclusion that laser phototherapy is a highly effective therapeutic armamentarium for tissue repair and pain relief.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Low-Level Light Therapy / methods*
  • Male
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain, Intractable / diagnosis
  • Pain, Intractable / radiotherapy*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk Assessment
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Wound Healing / radiation effects*
  • Wounds and Injuries / diagnosis
  • Wounds and Injuries / radiotherapy*