Half of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis experience sialorrhea due to facial weakness. Although anticholinergic medications are first-line therapy, they often lead to unacceptable side effects. Radiation therapy and botulinum toxin may be considered when medical management fails. In this systematic review, we investigated the effectiveness of these interventions.
Eligible studies were retrieved from PubMed and Scopus databases up to March 2017 along with hand-searching of references from primary articles.
Fourteen studies (N = 138) examined the benefits of botulinum toxin. Studies varied in salivary glands treated, dosages used, and the use of botulinum toxin subtype A or B. A majority of studies showed benefit after treatment. Although most studies reported only mild adverse effects, 2 case studies revealed severe complications including recurrent TMJ dislocations and rapid deterioration in bulbar function. Ten studies (N = 171) examined the benefits of radiation. Most studies reported improvement with only mild adverse events reported.
Both radiation and botulinum toxin are effective treatments for sialorrhea in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and should be considered when medical management fails. Radiation may offer longer duration of symptom improvement with fewer complications.