Morphine mouthwash for the management of oral mucositis in patients with head and neck cancer


1 Department of Radiation Oncology, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan, Iran

2 Department of Infectious Diseases, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan, Iran

3 Department of Community Medicine, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan, Iran


Background: Oral mucositis is a debilitating side effect of cancer treatment for which there is not much successful treatments at yet. We evaluated the effectiveness of topical morphine compared with a routine mouthwash in managing cancer treatment-induced mucositis.
Materials and Methods: Thirty head and neck cancer patients with severe mucositis (World Health Organization Grade III or IV) were randomized into the morphine and magic mouthwash groups. Patients received morphine sulfate 2% or magic solution (contained magnesium aluminum hydroxide, viscous lidocaine, and diphenhydramine), 10 ml for every 3 h, six times a day, for 6 days. Both groups received same dietary and oral hygiene instructions and care. Mucositis was graded at baseline and every 3 days after treatment. Patients' satisfaction and drug effect maintenance were also evaluated.
Results: Twenty-eight patients (mean age of 49.5 ± 13.2 years, 63.3% female) completed the trial; 15 in the morphine group and 13 in the magic group. There was a decrease in mucositis severity in both of the morphine (P < 0.001) and magic (P = 0.049) groups. However, at the 6 th day, more reduction was observed in mucositis severity in the morphine compared with magic group (P = 0.045). Drug effect maintenance was similar between the two groups, but patients in the morphine group were more satisfied by their treatments than those in the magic group (P = 0.008).
Conclusions: Topical morphine is more effective and more satisfactory to patients than the magic mouthwash in reducing severity of cancer treatment-induced oral mucositis. More studies with larger sample size and longer follow-up are required in this regard.


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