The study aimed to compare the use of plain ice, flavoured ice and standard care, to evaluate the effect on mucositis and to determine patients' perceptions of the two forms of oral cryotherapy.
Despite evidence that oral cryotherapy is useful in preventing mucositis in patients receiving 5-fluorouracil, concerns have been expressed about its clinical utility, due to potential side effects and negative perceptions.
A randomized, controlled, crossover trial was conducted in the outpatient chemotherapy department of an acute care teaching hospital in Perth, Western Australia. Patients were randomized to receive each of three interventions across three cycles of chemotherapy: standard care alone; standard care plus plain ice; and standard care plus flavoured ice.
Oral mucositis was assessed by nurses prior to each of the three chemotherapy cycles and 15 days after each intervention. Two assessment tools were used, the Oral Assessment Guide, and the Western Consortium Cancer Nursing Research Scale. Participants completed a questionnaire to determine their comfort and satisfaction with oral cryotherapy, as well as factors affecting compliance.
Findings from 67 patients revealed that when participants used standard care alone, they were significantly more likely to experience symptoms of mucositis than when they used either plain or flavoured ice. Odds ratios were at least threefold higher for standard care alone, varying according to the instrument used. The two main concerns reported were the taste of flavoured ice and the time required to complete the cryotherapy interventions. Side effects such as nausea, sensitivity and headache were reported more frequently for flavoured ice (n = 11) compared with plain ice (n = 5) and standard care (n = 1).
Both forms of oral cryotherapy were effective in reducing the severity of oral mucositis after chemotherapy and were more effective than standard care alone. Flavoured ice was associated with the highest frequency of side effects.
The benefits of cryotherapy appear to outweigh the problems in this sample of patients. The intervention should be tailored to individual patients, based on preferences for plain versus flavoured ice and small chips vs. larger blocks. Unsweetened frozen fruit juices should be evaluated. Time constraints could be addressed by providing transportable containers of ice.