Chemotherapy: the effect of oral cryotherapy on the development of mucositis

J Clin Nurs. 2005 Jul;14(6):754-65. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2702.2005.01128.x.


Aims and objective: The aim of this study is to investigate the effect of oral cryotherapy on the development of chemotherapy-induced mucositis in patients administered combined chemotherapy.

Background: Mucositis has been of interest to scientists for more than 20 years. Unfortunately, this has not resulted in the development of standard procedures for prevention and management. To cope with this side-effect and to prevent opportunistic infections that may emerge during treatment, attempts are taken to provide preventative and comfort measures. In this context, cryotherapy (oral cooling) has become popular as a cheap and readily applicable method in preventing the developing due the rapid infusion of chemotherapy agents, or decreasing its severity.

Design and method: Study involved 60 patients, 30 of whom were in the study group and 30 in the control group. Ice cubes at a size that can be moved easily in the mouth and whose corners have been smoothed in order that they will not cause irritation in the mouth has been used in oral cryotherapy in the study group. Oral chemotherapy was initiated five minutes before chemotherapy and maintained during venous infusions of etoposide (Vepesid), platinol (Cisplatin), mitomycin (Mitomycin-C) and vinblastin (Velbe) depending on the chemotherapy course.

Results: According to Patient-Judged Mucositis Grading, the rate of mucositis is 36.7% in study group and 90.0% in control group, the difference between two groups being statistically significant (P < 0.05). According to Physician-Judged Mucositis Grading, the rate of mucositis is 10.0% in the study group and 50.0% in the control group, the difference between two groups being statistically significant (P < 0.05). Oral pH values decreased in 90% of the subjects in study group, i.e. mucositis risk was reduced whereas oral pH values remained unchanged or decreased in 86.7% of the subjects in the control group, namely mucositis risk increased. The difference between study and control groups in terms of the change in pH values after chemotherapy was found to be statistically significant (P < 0.05).

Conclusion: Our findings have demonstrated that oral cryotherapy makes an important contribution to the protection of oral health by reducing the mucositis score according to patient- and physician-judged mucositis score and by increasing oral pH values.

Relevance to clinical practice: Aggressive cancer therapy places patients at greater risk for oral complications and treatment-related consequences. Unfortunately, prevention and/or treatment of such oral sequelae have often become overlooked as priorities of the treatment team. Effective approaches for the prevention or treatment of oral mucositis have not been standardized, and vary considerably among institutions. Prophylactic measures begin with an increased emphasis on improved oral status. Oral cryotherapy, the therapeutic administration of cold, is a prophylactic measure for oral inflammation. The relevance for clinical practice will be to understand the content of mucositis; comprehensive care should focus on the prevention of this complication in the clinical practice.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Attitude to Health
  • Clinical Nursing Research
  • Cryotherapy / methods*
  • Cryotherapy / nursing
  • Cryotherapy / psychology
  • Female
  • Hospitals, University
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouth Mucosa / chemistry
  • Mouth Mucosa / drug effects
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Oral Hygiene / methods*
  • Oral Hygiene / nursing
  • Oral Hygiene / psychology
  • Outpatient Clinics, Hospital
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Stomatitis / chemically induced*
  • Stomatitis / prevention & control*
  • Stomatitis / psychology
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Turkey


  • Antineoplastic Agents