A Novel Method to Treat Lymphedema [Virginia Commonwealth University]
Keywords:Lymphadema, Lymphedma, Implants, Cancer
One in eight American women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Many will survive, but will be left with painful reminders of their disease. One of these is lymphedema, a disease that involves excessive swelling of the limbs due to lymphectomies, chemotherapy, and radiation. Lymphedema affects body image, activities of daily living and ails more than 10 million Americans, yet nothing is being done for these people. They have defeated cancer but are losing to life. Lymphedema has many treatment options; however, most of them are ineffective, irritating, debilitating and cause other side effects such as nerve pain, muscle atrophy, and joint pain. New treatments need to be established. I am researching whether biomedical engineers can create a surgical implant that will restore or repair the lymphatic system. I studied the lymphatic system and the damage that is caused due to cancer treatments. Then I examined peer-reviewed research that explored how to prevent lymphedema, how different methods of breast reconstruction affected the incidence of lymphedema, the effectiveness of conventional lymphedema treatments, and the effect of surgical implants and grafts on limb volume reduction. The research suggests that biomedical engineers can create an implant that is capable of effectively treating lymphedema. The proposed device will be a small pump that will be implanted in place of the lymph nodes, the damaged lymphatic pathways will be replaced with silicone catheters and the devices’ battery will be charged using wireless charging. The pump and catheters will work in conjunction to regulate the lymph. The implant described above can be easily fabricated by modifying the original idea used in another study. Based on the results of the study this implant can be used to standardize the treatment and improve the quality of life for patients suffering from lymphedema.
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