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CJON Writing Mentorship Article

Role of Gabapentin in Managing Mucositis Pain in Patients Undergoing Radiation Therapy to the Head and Neck

Carol Ann Milazzo-Kiedaisch
Joanne Itano
Pinaki R. Dutta
CJON 2016, 20(6), 623-628 DOI: 10.1188/16.CJON.623-628

Background: Oral mucositis (OM) is a painful and debilitating side effect that affects 80%–100% of patients undergoing radiation therapy for head and neck cancer. This dose-limiting side effect may potentially lead to pain, dehydration, malnutrition, infection, and treatment breaks. Treatment breaks can lead to decreased disease control and suboptimal patient outcomes. No primary prevention exists for OM, and management is focused on pain control. Compelling evidence exists that OM pain has somatic and neuropathic components.

Objectives: This article reviews the existing literature on the use of gabapentin (Neurontin®) as a co-analgesic in treating the neuropathic pain in OM.

Methods: A literature search was performed using CINAHL® and PubMed with the search terms gabapentin and oral mucositis. The selected articles were briefly screened for relevance, and three were included in this review.

Findings: No systematic reviews exist on the role of gabapentin for neuropathic pain in radiation-induced OM. Two retrospective studies concluded that gabapentin reduced escalation of opioid doses and unplanned treatment breaks. One retrospective study demonstrated favorable swallowing outcomes. Pain and OM are nursing-sensitive outcomes that can be significantly affected by evidence-based nursing interventions.

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