Medical Moment: A new technique to reduce swelling caused by Lymphedema

Published: Dec. 7, 2022 at 5:34 PM EST
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(WNDU) - Lymphedema is a condition where fluid gets trapped in an arm or leg and causes swelling most often after cancer surgery to remove lymph nodes.

Until recently, patients were told there was nothing they could do, except wear a compression sleeve to control the swelling. Now, surgeons have better options for some patients.

Pandora Porcase has been a musician for 60 years.

“I can make a pipe organ sound awesome,” Porcase said.

But 35 years ago, Porcase was diagnosed with cancer in her left breast, and it had spread.

“I had 33 nodes that were positive,” Porcase recalled.

Doctors treated the cancer and removed the cancerous nodes. Months later, Porcase’s arm started to swell, a condition called lymphedema.

“I saw the growth in my hand, my wrist, in my forearm,” Porcase said.

Porcase still wears a glove and compression sleeve to control the swelling.

But in 2014, doctors diagnosed her with cancer in her right breast. This time, when swelling started again, plastic surgeon doctor Roman Skoracki had a plan.

“We actually transplanted lymph nodes from one part of her body into two different areas of her upper extremity,” said Roman Skoracki, MD, OSU Wexner Medical Center.

Dr. Skoracki also performed a lymphovenous bypass. Using microsurgery, he bypassed damaged nodes and connected to veins so the fluids could drain. The doctor also used liposuction to clear the arm of deposits.

“We remove the fat that’s underneath the skin with our cannula,” Dr. Skoracki explained.

Porcase’s arm isn’t perfect, but she’s got good control over her hands and fingers.

“It’s wonderful to see her be able to do the things that she loves to do,” Dr. Skoracki said.

Surgery that keeps Pandora Porcase perfectly in tune.

New surgical treatment options are surfacing every year in treatment of lymphedema. Vascularized Lymph Node Transfer surgery, Laparoscopic Omental Lymph Node Transfer, and Lymphaticovenous Anastomosis are all surgical procedures designed to remove lymph nodes and reduce swelling in the patient.

The surgeries are only minimally invasive and do not require a long recovery period. Lymphaticovenous anastomosis is even an outpatient performed procedure, requiring small incisions and a low blood loss.

These surgical procedures help greatly in preventing and controlling lymphedema and help the patient’s standard of life as well.