Controlling Mouth Sores from Melphalan
One of the side effects of high doses of
medicines used in stem cell transplant
can be painful mouth sores. A cancer
treatment drug called melphalan may
damage the lining of your mouth. This
can cause pain when you eat or drink.
Your doctors and nurses will try to keep
you as comfortable as possible during
your treatment but we do not know how
severe your mouth sores can be.
What is cryotherapy?
Oral Cryotherapy is cooling the mouth
with ice. This cooling effect results in
less blood flow to the lining of the
mouth. A smaller amount of blood flow
means the tissues in the mouth are
exposed to less melphalan. The lining of
the mouth may be protected from some
of the harmful effects of melphalan.
Research studies have shown that
sucking on ice chips (cryotherapy)
before, during, and after melphalan is
given may reduce the chances of having
mouth sores. If you develop mouth
sores, they may not be as severe.
Studies have also shown that
cryotherapy may reduce the amount of
pain medication needed and the number
of days you need to stay in the hospital.
How is cryotherapy done?
You will be given ice chips to keep in
your mouth starting 10 minutes before
your treatment. Continue to hold ice
chips until they melt, then swallow and
repeat. Replace the ice in your mouth
during your treatment and for 1 hour
after treatment is finished. We suggest
ice chips over popsicles or other ways of
cooling to reach as many parts of the
mouth as possible.
What are possible side effects of
Some patients have had mild short-term
side effects such as chills or nausea. If
your teeth are sensitive to cold, you may
not want to use cryotherapy. We do not
know the shortest amount of time needed
for it to work. One hour is based on how
the drug goes through your body. We do
not believe that cryotherapy reduces the
effectiveness of melphalan on your
Cryotherapy is an optional procedure
that may reduce mouth sores caused by
melphalan. Please talk to your nurse if
you want to use cryotherapy.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call
if you have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with
your doctor. This is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical
condition. Because each person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on
your health care team when using this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright ©
10/2017 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the
Department of Nursing. HF#7502.