South African first in the theatre

2017-10-31 06:01
Patient Stephanus van Wyk with Dr Conrad Pienaar of Life Vincent Pallotti Hospital after first-of-its-kind surgery on Van Wyk’s wrist.

Patient Stephanus van Wyk with Dr Conrad Pienaar of Life Vincent Pallotti Hospital after first-of-its-kind surgery on Van Wyk’s wrist.

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Life Vincent Pallotti Hospital in Pinelands has performed its first lymphoedema surgery, making history in South Africa as the first of its kind.

The surgery is a novel vascularised lymph node transfer: A microvascular procedure created to treat lymphoedema.

The lucky patient is Stephanus van Wyk who has been suffering from a painful lymph on his left arm since 2015 following cancer treatment. He says when he could not bear the pain anymore he sought help from his physiotherapist who introduced him to Dr Conrad Pienaar, specialist plastic and reconstructive surgeon of the ­hospital.

“I could no longer use my arm, the swelling was severe and very painful. I am happy that I was the first to receive this operation and I recommend it to other cancer patients as I can already see the positive results. The mobility of my arm has improved though it is still painful.”

He had a four-hour operation. He says it costs him R40 000, excluding the extra care at the hospital.

Pienaar explains: “Lymphoedema is a painful condition that may develop when cancer blocks lymph nodes or lymph vessels, or alternatively when cancer treatment such as surgery or radiotherapy removes lymph nodes or damages part of the lymphatic system. It develops when lymph fluid is not able to drain in the normal way and is collected in an area of the body, causing severe swelling.”

He says the functioning lymph nodes were transplanted from the outer groin area in to Van Wyk’s arm.

“We then carefully dissected out the targeted lymph nodes, along with the veins and artery and some surrounding tissue. Thereafter, the lymph nodes were transferred to the wrist, where the blood vessels were reconnected under microscopic magnification,” explains Pienaar.

He says once the transplanted lymph nodes are re-established, they drain the excessive fluid.

He says lymphoedema is a long-term chronic condition and the swelling can affect patients emotionally, physically and ­practically.

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