PRELUDE Study of Lymphatic Surgery to Treat Breast Cancer Related Lymphoedema
Description of the Study
Lymphoedema is a chronic debilitating disease that can have severe adverse effects on day-to-day life causing great physical and visual discomfort. The clinical presentation is characterised by chronic swelling of limbs, accompanied by localised pain, skin changes and recurrent infections. It is caused by a disruption in lymphatic flow which prevents the normal circulation of interstitial fluid (situated in the spaces between the cells of the body), resulting in swelling of the affected limb. It can be primary (cause unknown) or secondary to a number of causes such as malignancy, trauma, surgery, radiotherapy, infection, or venous disease. In breast cancer treatment, axillary surgery and radiotherapy significantly damage normal lymphatic drainage of the upper limb, causing lymphoedema in 1-in-5 patients. There is a growing body of evidence that this chronic and debilitating condition can be better managed through early surgical intervention rather than the current conservative management, which rely on pressure garments and massage. This surgical intervention, lymphaticovenous anastomosis (LVA), joins up a number of the draining lymphatic vessels to correspondingly sized veins on the affected limb using microsurgical techniques. A special dye and camera system is used to facilitate identifying lymph vessels. This creates a new drainage pathway for the lymph fluid around the area of disruption, improving lymphatic flow. Volume reduction is expected and this would be expected to provide quality of life benefits for the patients. This study seeks to compare the outcomes from both therapies and determine whether LVA surgery can help to improve the physical burden and quality of life for patients affected by lymphoedema. Furthermore, lymphoedema places a substantial burden on NHS services. If this trial is successful, LVA surgery could improve patient outcomes and reduce the overall cost of treatment.