Evaluation of Adjunctive Photobiomodulation (PBMT) for COVID-19 Pneumonia via Clinical Status and Pulmonary Severity Indices in a Preliminary Trial

Purpose: Evidence-based and effective treatments for COVID-19 are limited, and a new wave of infections and deaths calls for novel, easily implemented treatment strategies. Photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT) is a well-known adjunctive treatment for pain management, wound healing, lymphedema, and cellulitis. PBMT uses light to start a cascade of photochemical reactions that lead to local and systemic anti-inflammatory effects at multiple levels and that stimulate healing. Numerous empirical studies of PBMT for patients with pulmonary disease such as pneumonia, COPD and asthma suggest that PBMT is a safe and effective adjunctive treatment. Recent systematic reviews suggest that PBMT may be applied to target lung tissue in COVID-19 patients. In this preliminary study, we evaluated the effect of adjunctive PBMT on COVID-19 pneumonia and patient clinical status.

Patients and Methods: We present a small-scale clinical trial with 10 patients randomized to standard medical care or standard medical care plus adjunctive PBMT. The PBMT group received four daily sessions of near-infrared light treatment targeting the lung tissue via a Multiwave Locked System (MLS) laser. Patient outcomes were measured via blood work, chest x-rays, pulse oximetry and validated scoring tools for pneumonia.

Results: PBMT patients showed improvement on pulmonary indices such as SMART-COP, BCRSS, RALE, and CAP (Community-Acquired Pneumonia questionnaire). PBMT-treated patients showed rapid recovery, did not require ICU admission or mechanical ventilation, and reported no long-term sequelae at 5 months after treatment. In the control group, 60% of patients were admitted to the ICU for mechanical ventilation. The control group had an overall mortality of 40%. At a 5-month follow-up, 40% of the control group experienced long-term sequelae.

Conclusion: PBMT is a safe and effective potential treatment for COVID-19 pneumonia and improves clinical status in COVID-19 pneumonia.

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