Laser treatment for onychomycosis: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Medicine (Baltimore). 2019 Nov;98(48):e17948. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000017948.


Background: Laser systems are a common treatment choice for onychomycosis. They exert their effects on inhibiting the growth of the fungus by selective photothermolysis but efficacy is dependent on the specific type of apparatus used. To systematically review the available published literature on the curative effects and safety of laser treatment for onychomycosis.

Methods: Databases including PubMed, web of science, China National Knowledge Internet (CNKI), WanFang Database and VIP were searched systematically to identify relevant articles published up to July 2018. Potentially relevant articles were sourced, assessed against eligibility criteria by 2 researchers independently and data were extracted from included studies. A meta-analysis was performed using R software.

Results: Thirty-five articles involving 1723 patients and 4278 infected nails were included. Meta-analysis of data extracted from these studies revealed that: the overall mycological cure rate was 63.0% (95%CI 0.53-0.73); the mycological cure rate associated with the 1064-nm Nd: YAG laser was 63.0% (95%CI 0.51-0.74); and that of CO2 lasers was 74.0% (95%CI 0.37-0.98). The published data indicate that laser treatment is relatively safe, but can cause tolerable pain and occasionally lead to bleeding after treatment.

Conclusion: Laser treatment of onychomycosis is effective and safe. The cumulative cure rate of laser treatment was significantly higher for CO2 lasers than other types of laser. Laser practitioners should be made aware of potential adverse effects such as pain and bleeding.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Lasers, Gas / therapeutic use*
  • Lasers, Solid-State / therapeutic use*
  • Low-Level Light Therapy / methods*
  • Nails / radiation effects
  • Onychomycosis / radiotherapy*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome