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Background: A dry mouth or xerostomia is one of the most common long-term complications following radiotherapy for head and neck cancer and has a negative impact on quality of life in cancer survivors. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a novel approach to improving saliva flow in these patients. Objective: To perform a systematic review of studies evaluating TENS in the treatment of radiotherapy induced xerostomia in head and neck cancer patients. Data collection and analysis: A comprehensive electronic search was performed in PubMed/MEDLINE, the Cochrane Library, and Google Scholar databases for appropriate published studies. The last search was conducted in January 2020. Two review authors assessed all studies identified by the search strategy and carried out data extraction. Results: Five studies were included in the systematic review which analysed a total of 280 patients with head and neck cancer. Methodological quality and outcomes were evaluated in every study included. The outcome measure was either subjectively assessed or objectively measured. Three studies used conventional TENS therapy to stimulate parotid glands which produced a significant increase in saliva production following therapy. Two studies used acupunctured TENS type to electrically stimulate acupuncture points scattered in the body and they reported improvement in saliva production at the same level as medical treatment. No reported adverse effect of TENS was identified. Conclusions: This systematic review confirms the safety and feasibility of TENS in the treatment of xerostomia. It is established that commencing daily TENS therapy simultaneously with radiotherapy has the most efficacy. Given the nonspecific parameters used in the included studies, further evidence is needed in order to establish optimal settings and parameters of TENS for treatment of xerostomia.

Original publication




Journal article


Ann med surg (lond)

Publication Date





Dry mouth in patients with head and neck cancer, Head and neck cancer, Post radiotherapy complications in patients with head and neck cancer, TENS machine in production of sa, Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve stimulation of the salivary glands, Xerostomia