The Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM) is now offering a new surgical treatment for patients with lymphedema – swelling that is caused by the abnormal accumulation of lymph fluid in a body part, 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 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 per cent 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 there is currently no cure.
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.