Hope for patients with lymphedema

New surgical treatment offered at the Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM)

Newswise — The Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM) is now offering a new surgical treatment for patients with lymphedema, swelling caused by the abnormal accumulation of lymph fluid in a body part, most often the arms or legs. Lymphovenous bypass surgery consists of microsurgically connecting the affected lymphatic vessels to the venous system to facilitate lymph fluid flow, decrease the severity of the lymphedema, reduce the complications related to this chronic disease and improve the quality of life of lymphedema patients.  

The first lymphovenous bypass surgery to be performed at the CHUM took place on January 22, 2018, by Dr. Ali Izadpanah, on a young 23-year-old man who developed secondary lymphedema following a motorcycle accident. For nearly three and a half years, Olivier Lagacé was limited in his movements because of the swelling in his left leg, which had nearly 35% more volume than his right leg, despite continuous treatments (decongestive therapy and the wearing of compression socks). With the surgery performed at the CHUM, he will be able to hope for a reduction in not only the swelling in his leg, but in the number of treatments needed to control his illness. Lymphedema is a chronic disease for which no cure exists at this time.

State-of-the-art technologies complementing cutting-edge expertise

Lymphovenous bypass surgeries are performed at the CHUM by plastic surgeons Michel-Alain Danino, Ali Izadpanah and Laurence Paek, who have pursued postdoctoral training (fellowships), in Japan (Dr. Danino) and the U.S. (Drs. Izadpanah and Paek), in order to be able to perform these delicate operations. But their expertise, combined with that of the nurses, who are just as important in healthcare and innovation, would be of no help to patients without the supermicrosurgical technologies, devices and instruments that allow them to work in a submillimeter environment. The cornerstone of these investments, the Mitaka microscope, also used in neurosurgery, provides almost 80x the magnification of the structures being observed. Lymphovenous bypass surgery requires the use of a high-performance fluorescence imaging system to visualize the lymphatic system of the affected limb during the surgery. All these technologies have become available in the context of the opening of the CHUM’s new facilities.

The CHUM, a pioneer

Lymphovenous bypass surgery was developed in Japan a few years ago and, although it is now available at many centres in the U.S., it is still not easily accessible by Canadians with lymphedema. As a university hospital centre, the CHUM is presently working on developing a multidisciplinary clinical and research unit for lymphedema treatment that will make it possible not only to treat patients with this disease, but also to create a prospective database related to patients’ post-operative quality of life improvement. With its microsurgical simulation laboratory, which opened a year ago on the premises of the Direction de l’enseignement et de l’Académie CHUM, the hospital centre is also equipped and has set plans to contribute to lymphovenous surgery training and the development of new methods specific to this type of surgery. 

What is lymphedema?

For more information about lymphedema, visit the CHUM’s website at the following address to read the fact sheet: http://bit.ly/2DLEwj1 (in french only)


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About the Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CHUM)

The Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal is an innovative hospital dedicated to serving its patients. The CHUM provides the highest level of care – specialties and subspecialties – to its patients and the entire population of Quebec. Its unique expertise and innovative approach are helping to improve the health of the adult and aging population. A teaching hospital affiliated with the Université de Montréal, the CHUM’s vocation encompasses patient care, research, teaching and health promotion, as well as assessment of health-care technologies and interventional methods. Since fall 2017, CHUM patients and their families can find a fresh new hospital experience at the recently built facilities. From the perspective of offering a continuum of care and services to the community, the CHUM shares its governance structure with the Sainte-Justine university hospital centre (CHU Sainte-Justine), a mother-child centre. chumontreal.qc.ca