• By Susan Buckles

Science Saturday: A regenerative detour for lymphedema

February 6, 2021
word graphic with medical icons and symbols surrounding the word LYMPHEDEMA

Mayo Clinic is refining its regenerative approach to treating lymphedema, a debilitating buildup of fluid after cancer treatment. Research by Antonio Forte, M.D., Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic plastic surgeon, seeks to better pinpoint who is most likely to benefit from surgery aimed at regenerating a faulty lymphatic system.

Mayo Clinic's Center for Regenerative Medicine supports this work as part of it mission to deliver new regenerative solutions to the practice. Mayo Clinic's Center for Individualized Medicine is funding research to identify new biomarkers that could predict which patients are most likely to respond to this regenerative surgery.

"Without surgery, lymphedema gets progressively worse due to accumulation of the lymphatic fluid in tissue and the chronic changes that causes. The upper and lower extremities can feel heavy, and the affected area is more prone to infections. Wounds take longer to heal, and some people lose dexterity to the point that it's hard to put a shoe on," says Dr. Forte.

Lymphatic damage is most often associated with cancer treatment, although some cases of lymphedema are congenital. During cancer treatment, lymph nodes may be damaged or removed, and the lymphatic fluid no longer drains. Then lymphedema can develop months or years after cancer treatment.

Surgical options at Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic is a leader in surgical options to reverse the damage from lymphedema. Dr. Forte specializes in lymphovenous bypass, a microsurgery done under powerful microscopes that are magnified 20 to 25 times. Through an incision no larger than a paper cut, the surgery connects tiny lymphatic vessels smaller than a strand of hair to tiny veins, creating a type of detour around the damaged area. The new vessel connections restore the body's ability to drain lymphatic fluids.

Read the rest of the article on the Center for Regenerative Medicine blog.

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