Efficacy of laser acupuncture for patients with chronic Bell's palsy: A study protocol for a randomized, double-blind, sham-controlled pilot trial

Medicine (Baltimore). 2019 Apr;98(15):e15120. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000015120.


Background: Bell's palsy is the most frequent cause of unilateral peripheral facial palsy, a common condition that third of patients can have inadequate recovery and subsequent physical and social impairments. The largely ineffective and even controversial nature of the various medical and surgical treatment options means that novel, alternative approaches are needed. In preclinical and clinical evidence, low-level laser therapy (LLLT) has demonstrated the ability to regenerate peripheral nerves. Laser acupuncture treatment (LAT), the stimulation of traditional acupoints with low-intensity, non-thermal laser irradiation, is a common treatment modality, but its efficacy in chronic Bell's palsy is undetermined. This study aims to evaluate the efficacy of LAT in patients experiencing inadequate recovery from Bell's palsy.

Methods: This 2-armed, parallel, randomized, subject-assessor-blinded, single-center, sham-controlled pilot trial will randomly assign 32 eligible patients into either a real LAT group (n = 16) or a sham LAT group (n = 16). The real LAT group will receive 3 LAT sessions each week for 6 weeks (a total of 18 sessions), delivered to acupoints corresponding with the affected side of the face. The sham LAT group will receive the same treatment as the real LAT group, but with a sham laser device. The primary outcome measure will be the change from baseline at week 6 in the Facial Disability Index score. Secondary outcomes will monitor changes during treatment in the House-Brackmann and Sunnybrook facial nerve grading systems and stiffness scale, at weeks 1, 3, and 6.

Discussion: To the best of our knowledge, this double-blind, randomized, sham-controlled trial is the first such investigation into the efficacy of LAT in chronic Bell's palsy. Clinical trials using LLLT have shown positive therapeutic effects in acute Bell's palsy, although as yet, the feasibility and efficacy of LAT remain unclear in patients experiencing inadequate recovery from Bell's palsy.

Trial registration: This trial protocol has been approved by the Research Ethics Committee of the China Medical University Hospital, Taichung, Taiwan (Protocol ID: CMUH107-REC1-030) also registered at ClinicalTrials.gov (identifier no. NCT03592797).

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy* / methods
  • Bell Palsy / therapy*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Humans
  • Low-Level Light Therapy* / methods
  • Patient Selection
  • Pilot Projects

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03592797