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Lymphadema surgery

Posted Apr 02 2009 1:47pm
Surgery for lymphadema? Wow that's something I never would have imagined as a recommendation.

For those of you who don't know much about lymphadema it is the swelling that occurs when the lymph nodes are removed or blocked due to treatment and lymph fluid accumulates. Currently, there is no cure or preventive measure for lymphedema and it is difficult to manage; the use of compression bandages, massage and other forms of lymphatic therapy are commonly recommended options for patients. According to the National Cancer Institute, 25 to 30 percent of women who have breast cancer surgery with lymph node removal and radiation therapy develop lymphedema.

M.D. Anderson hospital is reporting success with lymphaticovenular bypass surgery. In this procedure surgeons use tiny microsurgical tools to make two to three small incisions measuring an inch or less in the patient's arm. Fluid is then redirected to microscopic vessels to promote drainage and alleviate lymphedema.

They also note that while this study was based on arms of breast cancer survivors that it can also be used in patients with lower limb lymphadema that is usually secondary to pelvic lymph node dissection.

The reason this is surprising is that to prevent lymphadema people who have had node dissection are encouraged to be careful about cuts, scrapes, infection and have been advised to not use the affected side for things like brood pressure readings and lab work. Perhaps it is a different situation when lymphadema is already present and the positive results outweighs any negative.

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