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Low Level Laser Therapy

LTU-904 Laser Therapy Unit
(Courtesy of Riancorp.)


Low level laser therapy (LLLT) was introduced into the US market in 2006, after the FDA cleared the Riancorp LTU-904 laser therapy units for the treatment of post-mastectomy lymphedema by lymphedema therapists.

The potential of a new treatment modality for lymphedema is an exciting development; however it is important to fully understand how this new treatment works, how well it has been tested, its limitations, and the long term results.

These units are infra-red lasers operating at a wavelength of 904 nanometers. This invisible wavelength penetrates deeply into tissue where it is absorbed by cells and converted into energy that apparently aids in reducing the swelling of post mastectomy lymphedema.

  • This laser does not heat the tissue and the patient does not feel any warmth from the laser.
  • Lasers of this type are considered eye-safe under American standards.
  • The device is easy to use; however, optimal results are gained only through correct device positioning and this positioning will vary from patient to patient.
  • Some therapists may show caregivers how to use the device as part of home care.
  • Therapists have found that the laser to be beneficial for softening hardened or fibrotic tissue. improving scars, and reducing pain.
  • Treatment did not have side effects, in the initial studies (see references).
  • Laser treatment should be suspended if the patient has an infection, active cancer, or other medical issue.

Low level laser therapy is not a cure for lymphedema and laser therapy should be combined with regular lymphedema treatment and home-care.


FDA approval was based primarily on the results of a 64 patient double-blind clinical trial conducted in Australia by Professor Neil Piller.

  • The Riancorp LTU-904 laser therapy unit is the only laser device cleared by FDA. This clearance is only for use in post-mastectomy lymphedema treatment.
  • This is not a "quick-fix magic wand." The patients in Dr. Piller’s study were treated three times a week for up to six weeks by professional therapists.
  • Long term results are not available yet.
  • In the clinical testing 52% of the patients experienced some reduction in swelling after six weeks of laser treatment.
  • In contrast, 19% of placebo patients experienced the same result.
  • The affected arm maintained the improvement at 1 and 3 month follow-up evaluations; however, longer term results are not yet available.


Other laser, or light products, that have not been clinically tested for lymphedema, are sold through the Internet. A potential purchaser should be aware of possible hazards from these light products:

  • Do not let a salesperson convince you that one of the other visible light units is the same in its functioning as the product that has been FDA approved.
  • These products can produce heat that damages lymphedema affected tissues.
  • These products may damage the eyes.
  • This is not a self-management tool. The FDA approval is for use by a qualified therapist who had been trained in the use of this therapeutic device.

LASER therapy is approved only for use by a professional lymphedema therapist. Laser therapy is not a “do-it-yourself” project and it is not recommended that a patient purchase the device and try it on their own. If you would like to see a video demonstration as to how the device can be used to treat fibrosis of the ankle, go to the Northwest Lymphedema Center website http://www.nwlymphedemacenter.org/vid_mngmntF.php



© LymphNotes.com 2014. This information does not replace the advice of a qualified health care professional.

Got a question or comment? Post in the 'Lymphedema Treatment' forum.
Category: How Lymphedema is Treated Updated: 2014-10-16


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