Photodynamic Laser Treatment for Osteoradionecrosis?

wbcgaruss Member Posts: 2,094 Member
edited August 24 in Head and Neck Cancer #1

Please members make note of this, it may be helpful someday to you. Although not the frontline treatment on this a fellow CSN'er, Mavish, recently posted this as an add-on and update into another posting. I think this subject and this option is important enough to share as a posting to the group and the public at large. Below I post as a whole article--

I will be doing some research on this and will post more information and links as I find it, feel free to add any helpful valid information you find.

Mavish Member Posts: 76 Member

2:38AM #13

Photodynamic Laser Treatment for Osteoradionecrosis

As you may remember, I was treated for rıght tonsil SCC in 2016, with surgery and RT. I had 70 gy on the tumor site and 60 gy on rıght neck that I had the 2 positive lymph nodes.

I am here to share a good news with you.

Here is my osteoradionecrosis story:

Before the treatment I was told I could be back at work 3--4 months after the radiotherapy However my body responded too badly to the radiation, I had excessive ulcers in my mouth it took 18 months to heal. Then, I had osteoradionecrosis very early in 2018 in my upper jaw (maxilla) I did not have tooth extraction or anything to speed up or trigger the osteoradionecrosis. 2 of my healthy looking tooths dropped on their own and left me with a big exposed bone.

Described reconstructive surgery sounded very complicated on its own and considering my tissues are being affected by radiation, we weren't sure if my tissues would heal after the surgery as surgery complication was high. So I chose the conservative approach not to have the surgery and wait to see how far I can go without it. I had 70 hyperbaric oxygen dives, ( normally people have 40 ish), used trentall and vitamin E, prednisolon etc.. Noting helped. I was having very frequent infection spreading to my face and neck. I was on antibiotics for two weeks and then I would be infection free for just 2-3 weeks and it was like a vicious circle. Some antibiotics started not working. I was treated one of the best Cancer Centres in Canada and my healthcare team is great. But it was nothing can be done except surgery or living with it.

About 2 years ago, I moved to another city. I found a Dentist here, and she offered me to include an Oral Pathologist in my care team. I said why not. But no good expectation, considering my bone is already dead. However, she mentioned a use of photodynamic laser treatment. She told ORN is too big and it is in advanced stage, but we can try. Idea seems too good to be true to me. I talked to my doctors they were not aware of this treatment modality. After thinking through 2 -3 weeks, I decided to take the chances as my situation was not great at the time and I already tried all the options except the surgery.

Dr. Firoozeh Samim put me on profilactic Doxycycline treatment. I think it also increases the photosensitivity of the tissues. And we started the laser treatment. Exposed bone area decreased to the 25% of its original size of 1x2 cm in the first six months but stayed there, but I kept having laser treatments to keep it where it is. She kept me on doxycycline. A few months ago, the exposed bone started mobilizing, and I saw my surgeon, the concern was any surgery may create a hole between sinus and oral cavity which requires reconstructive surgery. So again we decided not to touch it. 3 weeks ago the dead bone came out on its own, there was a surprisingly healthy well vascularised tissue under it.

- Officially I do not have and exposed bone or osteoradionecrosis (ORN) symptoms at the moment. I will use Doxycycline for four more months and then I will be off.

- Laser treatment was painless, was taking about 15 minutes.

-I did not have any infection since I started with this treatment modality.

I know that nothing will change that I had 70 gy and my body reacted very badly. I don't know what the future is holding for me. I am feeling good now.

I am grateful to all my doctors, nurses, dietitians, dentists, dental, hygienists, physiotherapists, social workers, my family, friends, people in this group who kept me alive.

I am constantly searching photodynamic laser treatment on the internet, to see what is published about it. Recently, I found the below page of Cleveland Clinic. It seems it is also becoming a new cancer treatment modality including head and neck cancers.

I am grateful to all my doctors, nurses, dietitians, dentists, dental hygienists, physiotherapists, social workers, my family, friends, people in this group who kept me alive in this journey.

May God bless you!

Take care, God Bless-Russ


  • Nancy24
    Nancy24 Member Posts: 70 Member

    Photodynamic Laser Treatment is an alternative treatment for cancer. It doesn't remove necrotic bone.

  • wbcgaruss
    wbcgaruss Member Posts: 2,094 Member
    edited August 24 #3

    Here is some info--+ link

    Osteradionecrosis can be successfully treated with adjuvant use of aPDT and Laser therapy. aPDT and Laser therapy are good adjuvant therapies for osteonecrosis prevention. Photobiomodulation can be an adjuvant healing measure in osteonecrosis treatment.

    Osteoradionecrosis of the jaws: case series treated with adjuvant low-level laser therapy and antimicrobial photodynamic therapy

    Guilherme Henrique Ribeiro, 1 Mariana Comparotto Minamisako, 2 Inês Beatriz da Silva Rath, 1 Aira Maria Bonfim Santos, 1 Alyne Simões, 3 Keila Cristina Rausch Pereira, 4 and Liliane Janete Grando 1

    Author information Article notes Copyright and License information PMC Disclaimer

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    Osteoradionecrosis of the jaw (ORNJ) is the most severe and complex sequel of head and neck radiotherapy (RT) because of the bone involved, it may cause pain, paresthesia, foul odor, fistulae with suppuration, need for extra oral communication and pathological fracture. We treated twenty lesions of ORNJ using low-level laser therapy (LLLT) and antimicrobial photodynamic therapy (aPDT). The objective of this study was to stimulate the affected area to homeostasis and to promote the healing of the oral mucosa.


    We performed aPDT on the exposed bone, while LLLT was performed around the bone exposure (red spectrum) and on the affected jaw (infrared spectrum). Monitoring and clinical intervention occurred weekly or biweekly for 2 years.


    100% of the sample presented clinical improvement, and 80% presented complete covering of the bone exposure by intact oral mucosa.


    LLLT and aPDT showed positive results as an adjuvant therapy to treat ORNJ.

    Keywords: Osteoradionecrosis, Oral cancer, Radiotherapy, Low-level laser therapy, Antimicrobial photodynamic therapy

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    Cancer is as a major public health problem worldwide. In 2012 14.1 million new cases were diagnosed, with 8.2 million deaths and 32.6 million people living with cancer (considering the survival time of 5 years), and 22 million new cancer cases are estimated for 2030. Oral cancer is responsible for 300.000 new cases and 145.000 deaths 9 . Thus, this disease needs attention and research for the best practices in prevention and cure.

    Treatments of oral cancer include surgery, radiotherapy (RT), chemotherapy or the combination of these methods, associated or not, all of them cause sequels to the patients. The chronic side effects on the oral cavity occur mainly because of impairments on cells and/or tissues, decreasing the capacity of bone repair, especially in the jaw. Infection or trauma may cause bone necrosis 8 . The condition in which the irradiated bone is exposed to the oral cavity for at least three months is called osteoradionecrosis of the jaw (ORNJ). This condition occurs in the absence of tumor recurrence, tumor necrosis during RT or metastases in the bone 20 . Many risk factors may cause ORNJ 18 , 21 , 23 - 25 , 28 , as shown in Figure 1.

    Figure 1

    Risk factors in relation to increased susceptibility to develop ORNJ

    ORNJ results from imbalance in the homeostasis of all tissues affected by head and neck RT 25 . The pathophysiology is composed by three phases: (1) initial pre-fibrotic (injuries to endothelial cells due to reactive oxygen species caused by RT); (2) constitutive organized (continuous liberation of cytokines and reactive oxygen species causing abnormal fibroblastic activity); and (3) late fibro-atrophic process (start of a fragile tissue healing) 5 . There is no cure for established ORNJ, only clinical control, since the damage caused by head and neck RT is irreversible on the jaw 21 .

    Conventional treatments to ORNJ include non-surgical debridement 20 , antibiotic therapy 4 , hyperbaric oxygenation 28 , pentoxifylline-tocopherol-clodronate combination (PENTOCLO) 26 , ultrasound 10 and surgery 21 . Despite the numerous and well-reported therapeutic methods found in literature 7 , 15 , 17 , there are no reports of the use of low-level laser therapy (LLLT) associated with antimicrobial photodynamic therapy (aPDT).

    LLLT is associated with the increase of cellular metabolism through the activation of the mitochondrial respiratory chain, increasing the levels of ATP synthesis, cell proliferation, protein synthesis and angiogenesis, which are essential for wound healing 12 . LLLT also causes an analgesic effect, by inhibiting electrophysiological activity on the nerves, altering the release of neurotransmitters that are associated with pain relief, improving lymphatic flow, among others 3 . The aPDT acts on exogenous photoreceptors, promoting the interaction of the light with a photosensitizer, producing reactive oxygen species, which causes microbial reduction 2 . Moreover, its antimicrobial action does not cause bacterial resistance or microbial selection 27 .

    By reducing pain, improving the wound healing process and eliminating the opportunistic microorganisms, the use of both therapies allow the patient to continue the cancer treatment, while preserving his/her basic oral functions, such as eating, drinking, swallowing and talking. Thus, the patient is more likely to maintain a good general health status, better responding to the treatment for ORNJ. Additionally, these therapies are non-invasive, atraumatic and no significant adverse effects associated with them are reported in literature 29 .

    Thus, the objective of this study was to assess the clinical effects of LLLT and aPDT to treat ORNJ in patients who underwent head and neck RT, as well as to propose an adjuvant treatment protocol to the pathology.

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    Materials and methods

    This is a prospective analytic experimental study. All procedures were performed at the Dentistry Center of the University Hospital of the Federal University of Santa Catarina and were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Institutional Research Committee (no. 724.398, from July/2014) and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

    Sample and classification of ORNJ

    The inclusion criteria were patients aged over 18 years, of both sexes, who underwent head and neck RT and developed ORNJ, and who agreed with the informed consent form. The exclusion criteria were patients who developed osteonecrosis of the jaw, underage, who abandoned treatment or who did not sign the informed consent. We examined patients undergoing head and neck RT, with or without surgery and/or chemotherapy, due to cancer and primary tumor or metastasis in this area (oral cavity, oropharynx, nasopharynx and hypopharynx). The sample consisted of 20 ORNJ lesions (n=20), 6 in maxilla and 14 in mandible, which were evaluated weekly or biweekly for 2 years. The appointments depended on the availability of the patients. ORNJ lesions were graded using a clinical and imaging classification adapted from He, et al. 11 (2015). The imaging parameters (B = bone necrosis) and the clinical parameters (S = soft tissue) are shown in Figure 2.

    Figure 2

    Classification of ORNJ based on clinical and imaging parameters

    LLLT and aPDT protocol for ORNJ

    We used a laser device (Therapy XT® - Diode laser nm, DMC, São Carlos, SP, Brazil) at λ660 nm (red spectrum) and λ808 nm (infrared spectrum), with fixed power of 100 mW. We used the red LLLT first and the aPDT after, these therapies were performed only in cases of bone exposure and/or infection. Infrared LLLT was performed imperatively, even when there was no infection or exposed bone, this procedure was performed on the interval between red LLLT and aPDT (time pre-irradiation, in which methylene blue 0.01% was used to stain the area related to bone exposure) (Table 1). The number of LLLT sessions varied for each patient, depending on the severity of the ORNJ lesion, availability of the patient for treatment and when he/she started to be treated.

    Table 1

    LLLT and aPDT protocol to ORNJ, proposed by the authors

    Application site (intraoral)LLLT (red spectrum) 100 mW, 10 s, 37.71 J/cm2 LLLT (infrared spectrum) 100 mW, 40 s, 142.85 J/cm2 aPDT (MB 0.01% 4min + red spectrum) 100 mW, 40 s, 142.85 J/cm2 Vestibular alveolar ridge mandible1 or maxilla2 right side—6 points—Vestibular alveolar ridge mandible1 or maxilla2 left side—6 points—Bone exposure and/or purulent secretion——1 point each 0.25 cm2 (0.5 cm × 0.5 cm)Oral mucosa surrounding the bone exposure1 point each 0.25 cm2 (0.5 cm × 0.5 cm)——

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    1From symphysis to ramus at the height of the mandibular canal; 2 From premaxilla to tuberosity at the height of the dental apexes.

    Statistical analysis

    Data were analyzed using the software SPSS Statistics Version 24.0. We performed a descriptive analysis considering epidemiological features and clinical characteristics of ORNJ, and outcomes obtained through LLLT and aPDT. We performed the Chi-Square Test to verify the association between ORNJ stages and healing of the injured oral mucosa by treatment with LLLT and aPDT. The level of significance adopted was 5% (p<0.05).

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    The sample consisted of patients from 40 to 71 years old, the mean age was of 59.1 years. Men presented a much higher prevalence of ORNJ lesions than women, with a ratio of 9:1 cases. Only one patient had melanoderma (5%), the other patients had leukoderma (95%). When asked about drugs, most patients (85%) mentioned smoking and drinking (Table 2). There were no reports of use of illicit drugs.

    Table 2

    Epidemiological and clinical features of the sample

    ORNJ lesionsStage IStage IIStage IIITotal% Age

    40 – 4902021050 – 5904263060 – 6951394570 – 79300315 Sex

    Women020210Men8551890 Ethnicity


    Drinking and smoking7431470Smoking only102315None030315 Radiation dose

    ≤ 72Gy6451575> 72Gy230525 Time elapsed between RT and ORNJ

    ≤ 24 months6401050> 24 months2351050 Site

    Anterior maxilla01015Posterior maxilla212525Anterior mandible520735Posterior mandible133735 Extra oral communication

    Absent405945Present4701155 Fistula with suppuration

    Absent5351365Present340735 Pain

    Absent7421365Present133735 Paresthesia


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    We could not establish a standardized RT protocol since all patients underwent head and neck RT under distinct protocols, due to being treated at different RT treatment centers.

    The minimum radiation dose each patient received was 66Gy and the maximum was 92Gy, with mean total radiation dose of 72Gy. However, on five cases (25%) ORNJ was developed by receiving a total radiation dose above the mean, these patients did not reach stage III. All cases of ORNJ stage III occurred after 24 months. Half the patients presented the first ORNJ lesions within 24 months after the start of RT while the other half presented lesions after this period. Regarding where the ORNJ lesions occurred, we confirmed higher percentages on the mandible (70%). The lesions on the mandible were uniformly distributed for both the posterior (50%) and anterior (50%) regions, while the maxilla was predominantly affected on the posterior region (83.3%). The absence or presence of clinical findings such as extra oral communication, fistula with suppuration, pain and paresthesia were also assessed and are described on Table 2.

    All ORNJ lesions were classified as stage I (Figure 3a), stage II (Figure 3b) or stage III (Figure 3c and ​and3d)3d) to promote the most appropriate and efficient approach. No lesion was diagnosed as stage 0. Eight lesions were identified as stage I (40%), 7 as stage II (35%) and 5 as stage III (25%). After the classifying the lesions the treatment and monitoring began. Every patient was instructed on the need to maintain good oral health, hygiene of dental prostheses and regular flossing when indicated. Another standard measure was the prescription of chlorhexidine gluconate 0.12% to be used as mouth wash for 1 minute after regular oral hygiene, twice a day and continuously, regardless of the stage.

    Figure 3

    Patients with ORNJ. Stage I: bone exposures < 2 cm, asymptomatic, without evidence of infection (a). Stage II: bone exposure ≥2 cm, symptomatic, with infection, erythema and pain (b). Stage III: orocutaneous fistula with purulent drainage in intraoral (c) and extraoral (d) view

    We chose some variables to analyze the therapy response to LLLT and aPDT. Stage I lesions received the most LLLT (both infrared and red spectra) sessions, while stage III received the most aPDT sessions. One of the cases of ORNJ stage I was submitted to 44 infrared spectrum LLLT sessions, 25 red spectrum LLLT sessions and 23 aPDT sessions while these numbers were 9, 11 and 21 for ORNJ stage II and 27, 16 and 38 for ORNJ stage III, respectively. The anterior mandible was the most irradiated region by LLLT and the posterior mandible was the region by aPDT. The posterior maxilla was the least irradiated region by both treatments.

    Regarding the total radiation dose received during cancer treatment, the patients who underwent head and neck RT over 72Gy needed fewer sessions of LLLT and aPDT. Despite most patients receiving radiation doses lower than 72Gy, in some cases it was necessary to quadruple the infrared spectrum LLLT sessions and to triple both red spectrum LLLT and aPDT sessions to achieve better results. Similar findings were observed on the period between RT and the first record of ORNJ. Cases that presented ORNJ stages I and II within the first 24 months demanded almost twice as many LLLT sessions when compared to those who diagnosed after this period. However, a greater number of aPDT sessions were required to treat ORNJ stage III, after 24 months of the ending of RT.

    LLLT and aPDT were applied multiple times during the 2 years of follow-up. In total, lesions stage I received 229 infrared spectrum LLLT, 137 red spectrum LLLT and 152 aPDT sessions. For stage II and stage III lesions we performed 83, 35 and 49 sessions and 83, 48 and 118 sessions, respectively. Considering only the cases in which there was complete remission of the ORNJ lesion, on average, it took 34.38 sessions and 17 weeks to treat ORNJ stage I, 16.17 sessions and 8 weeks to treat ORNJ stage II, and 39 sessions and 19 weeks to treat ORNJ stage III.

    There was clinical improvement in 100% of the ORNJ lesions. The criteria for improvement of the clinical condition were the remission of fistulae, absence of necrosis on bone exposure, control of infections by the absence of pain, no suppuration or paresthesia, as well as the partial or total repair of the oral tissue. These effects were observed after both treatments. LLLT and aPDT were clinically effective in all cases, and in most of them (80%) the oral mucosa was fully coated (Table 3), reducing microbial contamination and avoiding the possibility of opportunistic infections through the oral cavity. The other lesions (20%) not completely healed (n=4) were classified mainly as ORNJ stage III (n=3).

    Table 3

    LLLT and aPDT clinical outcomes on ORNJ lesions

    ORNJ lesionsStage IStage IIStage IIITotal% p Clinical condition

    .028 Remission with partial coating of oral mucosal lining013420

    Remission with total coating of oral mucosal lining8621680

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    Chi-Square Test. Value with statistical significance is in italics.

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    ORNJ is a severe and complex sequel of head and neck RT that may cause deep biological, sociological and psychological impacts on the quality of life of patients. Despite ORNJ being a controllable, but not curable disease, we note that even for the most severe lesions, the results obtained with the proposed treatments exceeded our expectations (Figure 4), since the beneficial effects (absence of pain, elimination of infection and suppuration, oral mucosa repair) were observed immediately after the initial sessions. Thus, the use of LLLT, with or without aPDT, can provide excellent results to control the disease, regardless of the stage.

    Figure 4

    Osteoradionecrosis of the jaw (ORNJ) remission with total coating of oral mucosal lining in patients treated with LLLT and aPDT. ORNJ stage I in posterior maxilla in remission after 10 months (a). ORNJ stage II in posterior mandible in remission after 7 months (b). ORNJ stage II in anterior maxilla in remission after 4 months (c). Both patients were followed-up for two years and so far there was no recurrence of the lesions

    The results of identification and characterization of the sample for this study were similar to those already established in global literature: oral cancer is more frequent starting at 50 years old; it affects more men than women and may even exceed the ratio of 5:1 cases; leukoderma patients are more affected when compared to other ethnic groups; smoking and drinking are extremely harmful habits, which may trigger or enhance the disease 14 . According to literature, the radiation dose related to ORNJ is 70Gy 16 , 24 , 28 . Therefore, the mean radiation dose of 72Gy observed in this study was capable of inducing ORNJ, however, some patients developed ORNJ with lower doses.

    Regarding the time to develop ORNJ, He, et al. 11 (2015) reported that 68% of the patients developed ORNJ within 24 months. In contrast, Notani, et al. 19 (2003) obtained a mean of 27.7 months, Oh, et al. 21 (2009) 30 months and D'Souza, et al. 6 (2007) 48 months. Despite some studies pointing means that exceed 24 months, we believe that this disease will become increasingly frequent in patients who underwent head and neck RT, which is what the most recent studies 3 , 13 , 23 , 25 indicate. Several authors point the posterior mandible as the region most commonly affected by ORNJ, since the blood supplied to the mandible comes through the inferior alveolar artery, which is a facial artery and is significantly lower than the maxilla 23 , 24 . Furthermore, the cortical bone from the premolar to retromolar regions is considered the most vulnerable area to ORNJ. This region receives higher radiation doses during cancer treatment due to the greater bone density 20 .

    The treatment for ORNJ requires a broad spectrum of processes such as patient education regarding oral hygiene and harmful habits (smoking and drinking) 23 , non-surgical debridement (sequestrectomy) 20 , mouthwash with chlorhexidine gluconate 0.12% 21 , long-term antibiotic therapy 4 , hyperbaric oxygenation 28 , ultrasound 10 , PENTOCLO combination 5 , 26 and extensive surgery 6 , 21 . The prescription of each therapeutic modality is individualized and some of them are controversial, however, all require long periods of intervention and none of them is definitive. For these reasons patients with ORNJ must be regularly monitored due to the high risk of disease progression. Proposing the use of LLLT and aPDT to treat ORNJ is grounded on the properties of these therapies and supported by metabolism-activating effects on bone, mucosa and tissues, both very well documented in literature 2 , 3 , 12 , 27 , 29 .

    The effectiveness of LLLT is supported by studies that point the effects of the therapy on the healing process of the oral mucosa by reducing the exudative phase, stimulating the healing process and by inducing the proliferation and transformation of fibroblasts and myofibroblasts 1 . The therapy also increases the blood flow by angiogenesis through revascularization and capillary growth 22 . The acceleration of the tissue repair process occurs due to the release of growth factors (TGF, PDGF, FGF-β, IL6, IL8, IL1-α) that accelerate the formation and deposition of collagen type I and III 30 and by eliminating infections through antimicrobial aPDT action 29 .

    According to the results of this study, we found that aPDT applied directly to an exposed bone with suppuration can be beneficial to control infected ORNJ lesions. Furthermore, we observed the remission of ORNJ and partial or total repair of the oral mucosa. Therefore, we can claim that LLLT and aPDT were essential to the success of disease control, reinforcing the importance of its applicability and indication.

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    The results of this study suggest that LLLT and aPDT as a new treatment of ORNJ brought important benefits to the patients, assisting on the clinical management of the disease.

    The new therapeutic approach proposed led to a decrease on the stage of ORNJ lesions, acting as an adjuvant treatment within a set of clinical maneuvers, bringing beneficial effects to control the disease and improving the quality of life of the patients. All patients in the sample benefited from the new treatment performed.

    Based on our results, we recommend the use LLLT, in both red and infrared spectra, and aPDT as an adjuvant treatment of ORNJ. We suggest further research to obtain more relevant data on the action of LLLT and aPDT to treat ORNJ lesions.

  • wbcgaruss
    wbcgaruss Member Posts: 2,094 Member
    edited August 24 #4

    Yes, I know Nancy, I realize that Photodynamic Laser Treatment is an alternative treatment for cancer. I am aware it is not actually for Osteoradionecrosis or necrotic bone. But I just wanted to share the fact that it helped one of our members, Mavish in just such a way. On further searching, I found that it has been used on osteoradionecrosis in some situations. Granted it is not the first line of defense that is used but if this helps someone, great. At least it is worth a try if you can avoid jawbone replacement. It is just one more tool in the box for us H&N folks.

    Here is a snip off of Cleveland Clinic and I will post the link below--

    What conditions are treated with PDT?

    Healthcare providers use PDT to treat a wide range of medical issues, including skin conditions, many types of cancer, and some noncancerous conditions.

    Take Care, May God Bless & Watch Over You


  • Nancy24
    Nancy24 Member Posts: 70 Member

    Russ - I was logged in on our home computer. That was my husband chiming in unbeknownst to me. Sorry. I’ve told him he’s not allowed to comment on here without telling me first.

    He is actually in touch with Mavish’s doctor about the laser treatments.


  • wbcgaruss
    wbcgaruss Member Posts: 2,094 Member

    Ahhhhh, so he was a naughty boy then, he will have to go stand in the corner for a while.

    That's OK, Nancy, no problem. It's good to share or clarify any information we have or have access to. I hope it helps him and Mavish may be a big help too.

    Tell your husband Hi!

    Wishing You the Best

    Take care, God Bless