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The effectiveness of lasers in the treatment of onychomycosis: a systematic review.

BACKGROUND: Onychomycosis is a common nail pathology which has proven to be a treatment challenge to healthcare professionals. Antifungal drugs have been the mainstay of therapy for many years. Recently, laser technologies have been introduced as a treatment for onychomycosis avoiding the disadvantages of systemic and topical drug therapies, offering a rapid treatment for an often persistent nail condition. The purpose of this study was to review published evidence regarding the effectiveness of laser technologies in the treatment of onychomycosis.

METHODS: The primary question for this review was "what evidence is there for the use of lasers in the treatment of onychomycosis"? A systematic literature search of published papers indexed on Pubmed and Web of Science® was undertaken in June 2014 for original, published research. The primary outcome measures for efficacy were mycological cure and clearance of the affected nail (clinical cure).

RESULTS: This review returned a total of twelve eligible published studies evaluating the use of lasers in the treatment of onychomycosis. Two were randomised controlled trials, four were comparative design studies (with no placebo/control groups) and the remainder were case series. The level of evidence was generally low level reflecting predominantly small sample size and lack of control groups. The results from studies were conflicting and follow up periods for patients in studies were generally short. Many studies excluded patients with severe or dystrophic onychomycosis.

CONCLUSIONS: The evidence pertaining to the effectiveness of laser treatment of onychomycosis is limited and of poor methodological quality. Future studies using a randomised controlled trial designs with larger study populations and clear procedures are required to permit a full evaluation of this emerging technology.

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