<img class="alignnone size-full wp-image-35250" src="https://mdthinks.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/freed-from-lymphedema-by-unique-minimally-invasive-surgery.jpg" alt=" Joni Carithers had to cope with swelling of the arm due to lymphedema for years after breast cancer surgery. But in 2016, microsurgery at the Mayo Clinic finally relieved the discomfort that had plagued her for so long. "Width =" 805 "height =" 453 "/>
Joni Carithers had to cope with swelling of the arm due to lymphoedema for years after breast cancer surgery. But in 2016, microsurgery at the Mayo Clinic finally relieved the discomfort that had tormented her for so long.
Joni Kay Carithers is the kind of person who does not let anything move, not even Lymphedema . The 53-year-old real estate agent was living with the disease since 1998, after a mastectomy of his right breast and ablation of 21 lymph nodes from his arm.
"In a month of breast cancer surgery my right hand and my entire arm up to my shoulder became very swollen," says Joni.
For years she has been treating the chronic swelling caused by lymphoedema as best as she can. But when her mother-in-law sent her a pamphlet about a procedure that might be helpful, called lympho-venous bypass she was intrigued. Mayo Clinic is one of the few centers in the country to offer this minimally invasive microsurgery.
"I knew it was a relatively new surgery, but I was excited about it," Joni says. She decided that a six-hour trip to the Florida campus of the Mayo Clinic to meet the plastic surgeon and reconstructor Antonio Forte, MD, Ph.D. was well worth worth it to be driven.
"Despite having lymphedema for years, Joni was an extremely motivated patient who never lost hope of improving her condition," Dr. Forte says. "I was confident that we could significantly improve its quality of life with this microsurgical technique."
Obstruction of everyday life
Lymphedema, which affects approximately 20% of people with breast cancer, occurs when the fluid accumulates and causes swelling in an arm or leg because the lymphatic vessels of the body do not can not adequately drain the liquid. Lymphedema is often caused by ablation or involvement of lymph nodes as part of a treatment for cancer.
To fight the condition after his surgery, Joni began physical therapy and began wearing a compression sleeve and glove to reduce swelling. But she had a habit of being very active – walking four miles a day, mowing the lawn and doing house remodeling projects. These activities would cause a lot of discomfort in his right arm.
Shortly after moving to Lake Lanier, Ga., In 2001, Joni also realized that lymphoedema significantly affected her ability to enjoy new hobbies, including boating.
"Despite having lymphoedema for years, Joni was an extremely motivated patient who never despaired of improving her health and I was confident that we could significantly improve its quality of life with this microsurgical technique. " – Antonio Forte, M.D., Ph.D.
"At one point, I stopped all physical activity for six weeks and I worked with a physiotherapist to relieve lymphedema," says Joni.
Unfortunately, the disease persisted. In 2007, Joni bought a machine that could massage his arm and help his body drain excess fluid. Although it provided some relief, Joni still had to wear compression garments every day.
"Logistically, it was embarrassing, if I prepared to prepare dinner, I had to remove them," she says. "Plus, I had to replace them frequently because they would get dirty by doing gardening jobs and home projects."
Watch a New Possibility
In the hope of finding another treatment, Joni occasionally asked her physiotherapists if they knew of any other solutions. And she continued to do her own research. So when she received information from her stepmother about the possibility that ectopic circulation might help her, Joni was eager to meet Dr. Forte and learn more.
At the appointment, Dr. Forte explained to Joni that during the procedure, they would establish a new connection between a lymphatic vessel and a vein, bypassing the blockage of his lymphatic system and allowing the excess fluid to escape. flow properly.
"I knew by the way he was explaining everything, that my arm would be better when I was out of surgery," says Joni. "He is very kind, very intelligent, he looks you in the eyes and wants to make sure you understand, he's a great doctor."
"I thought it would be the best place to do something like that, I never thought of going anywhere else." – Joni Carithers
On February 11, 2016, Dr. Forte made a few small incisions in Joni's arm. Then, with the help of a single microscope, he started bypassing the blockage that caused him lymphedema. Magnification was needed during the procedure because the involved lymphatic vessels and veins measured less than one millimeter.
"The magnification is 15 times higher than a normal image," says Dr. Forte, who uses a brittle needle with a finer suture than a hair to create the new connection between the lymphatic vessel and a vein that provides a path for the liquid to flow.
Because of the size of ships, precision is essential to success. So, too, is a limited movement during surgery. "Any tremor or movement is also magnified 15 times, so a bump or shock can cause a tear in the tiny vessels," says Dr. Forte.
Reaching His Resolution
Once the five-hour process was over, Joni returned home the same day. Recovery, she says, was easy.
"I'm grateful that there's finally a way to drain the liquid," says Joni. "The swelling of my arm was reduced by 70% compared to when I went to see Dr. Forte."
His goal of stopping wearing compression garments became a reality six months after the operation.
"I'm excited to go out on the boat and not have gloves and sleeves," says Joni. She is even more excited not to wear them at her daughter's wedding.
Joni is grateful to be moving forward with her life without congestion of lymphedema, with the help of her Mayo Clinic team.
"Mayo had always been where you were when you were not able to get answers elsewhere," she said. "I thought it would be the best place to do something like that, I never thought of going anywhere else."
Watch this Minute from the Mayo Clinic to learn more about lymphedema research and find out how exercise can help improve the disease.