Chapter 25 Phototherapy in Peripheral Nerve Injury. Effects on Muscle Preservation and Nerve Regeneration

Shimon Rochkind, Stefano Geuna, Asher Shainberg

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Posttraumatic nerve repair and prevention of muscle atrophy represent a major challenge of restorative medicine. Considerable interest exists in the potential therapeutic value of laser phototherapy for restoring or temporarily preventing denervated muscle atrophy as well as enhancing regeneration of severely injured peripheral nerves. Low-power laser irradiation (laser phototherapy) was applied for treatment of rat denervated muscle in order to estimate biochemical transformation on cellular and tissue levels, as well as on rat sciatic nerve model after crush injury, direct or side-to-end anastomosis, and neurotube reconstruction. Nerve cells' growth and axonal sprouting were investigated in embryonic rat brain cultures. The animal outcome allowed clinical double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized study that measured the effectiveness of 780-nm laser phototherapy on patients suffering from incomplete peripheral nerve injuries for 6 months up to several years. In denervated muscles, animal study suggests that the function of denervated muscles can be partially preserved by temporary prevention of denervation-induced biochemical changes. The function of denervated muscles can be restored, not completely but to a very substantial degree, by laser treatment initiated at the earliest possible stage post injury. In peripheral nerve injury, laser phototherapy has an immediate protective effect. It maintains functional activity of the injured nerve for a long period, decreases scar tissue formation at the injury site, decreases degeneration in corresponding motor neurons of the spinal cord, and significantly increases axonal growth and myelinization. In cell cultures, laser irradiation accelerates migration, nerve cell growth, and fiber sprouting. In a pilot, clinical, double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized study in patients with incomplete long-term peripheral nerve injury, 780-nm laser irradiation can progressively improve peripheral nerve function, which leads to significant functional recovery. A 780-nm laser phototherapy temporarily preserves the function of a denervated muscle, and accelerates and enhances axonal growth and regeneration after peripheral nerve injury or reconstructive procedures. Laser activation of nerve cells, their growth, and axonal sprouting can be considered as potential treatment for neural injury. Animal and clinical studies show the promoting action of phototherapy on peripheral nerve regeneration, which makes it possible to suggest that the time for broader clinical trials has come.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)445-464
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Review of Neurobiology
Issue numberC
StatePublished - 2009


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