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Oral Complications of Chemotherapy and Head/Neck Radiation (PDQ®): Supportive care - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Oral Toxicities Not Related to Chemotherapy or Radiation Therapy

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Management of BON

Confirmed BON with exposed bone in the oral cavity should initially be managed conservatively with local debridement and removal of sharp margins of bone; this reduces the risk of trauma to soft tissue, including the tongue. Systemic antibiotics should be administered when active infection with purulent secretion, swelling and inflammation of the surrounding soft tissues, and pain are present. Initial therapy can be implemented with a single antibiotic, but there is no agreement regarding drug of first choice. Options include the following:

  • Amoxicillin, 500 mg 4 times a day for at least 14 days.
  • Metronidazole, 250 mg 3 times a day for at least 14 days.
  • Clindamycin, 300 mg 4 times a day for at least 14 days.
  • Amoxicillin and clavulanic acid, 500 mg 4 times a day for at least 14 days.

In addition, topical oral therapy can be implemented via 0.12% chlorhexidine mouth rinses or tetracycline rinses (62.5 mg/oz) twice a day. The need for oral hygiene with meticulous brushing and flossing after meals should be emphasized.[1,6,7,9,18,19]

The patient should be reevaluated in 2 weeks. Systemic antibiotics can be discontinued when clinical signs and symptoms improve. The local measures should be maintained, however, as part of the routine oral hygiene procedures consisting of brushing and flossing.

In BON cases refractory to therapy, patients may need to be maintained on long-term antibiotic therapy. With these patients, a combination of different antibiotic agents such as penicillin and metronidazole can be considered. Another possibility is to use clindamycin or the combination of amoxicillin and clavulanic acid in place of amoxicillin. When the infectious process extends to more critical areas of the head and neck, the patient may need hospitalization and intravenous antibiotic therapy, culminating in the need for extensive surgical resection of the affected areas.[19]

Reports suggest that BON can be successfully managed by surgical resection and primary wound closure, especially in cases refractory to conservative therapy.[20,21,22] Furthermore, the use of surgical lasers has also been suggested as an alternative for BON patients who do not respond to conservative management.[23]

Use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBO) to treat cases of established BON does not appear to be effective.[1,9,18,19] However, evidence indicates that HBO in addition to discontinuation of bisphosphonate therapy may benefit patients with BON.[24] Definitive evidence is pending while research in this area continues.[25]

Another possible approach involves surgical manipulation and uses bone labeling with tetracycline. In this modality, the patient is treated with a standard dose of tetracycline a few days presurgery. During the surgery, when bone is exposed, the Wood's lamp is shone over the bone. Necrotic bone does not fluoresce and is removed. The procedure continues until fluorescence is seen, suggesting the presence of vital bone.[26]

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WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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