Lymph node transplant surgery performed for the first time in Israel

The surgery was performed at the Padeh-Poriya Medical Center in Tiberias.

 Photo of Rania’s operation. (photo credit: PADEH-PORIYA MEDICAL CENTER)
Photo of Rania’s operation.
(photo credit: PADEH-PORIYA MEDICAL CENTER)

For the first time in Israel, surgeons at Baruch Padeh Medical Center, Poriya in Tiberias have performed lymph node transplant surgery. The patient was a 34-year-old woman suffering from the lack of a lymphatic system in her leg that caused it to swell terribly.

In a complex operation under the leadership of surgical department head Dr. Muad Faraj and Dr. Assi Drobot, director of the breast and lymphedema surgical unit, lymph nodes taken from her abdomen and transplanted into her leg.

Some time ago, Rania (pseudonym), a resident of the Golan Heights, went up the five stairs of her house and felt that her right leg started to hurt and swell.

“It happened suddenly. For several years I suffered a lot of pain in my leg, but now I had edema [swelling] from the foot to above the knee. I would cry at night, I stopped leaving the house and buying clothes, I didn’t want to be seen like this with such a swollen leg. I couldn’t wear a shoe on my foot – only very wide flip-flops.... It was a very difficult time. I cut myself off from everyone. My whole life was ruined.”

I would cry at night, and I stopped leaving the house and buying clothes, I didn't want to be seen like this with such a swollen leg."

Rania

Drobot said this is a chronic congenital disease that suddenly erupted.

The Baruch Padeh Medical Center, Poriya now offers Electromyography (EMG) tests. (credit: MAYA TZABAN/BARUCH PADEH MEDICAL CENTER SPOKESPERSON)The Baruch Padeh Medical Center, Poriya now offers Electromyography (EMG) tests. (credit: MAYA TZABAN/BARUCH PADEH MEDICAL CENTER SPOKESPERSON)

“The edema in the leg was created as a result of a lack of a lymphatic system in the foot, which causes the accumulation of fluids and swelling. The accepted solution is an operation during which the blocked pipe is drained. But Rania underwent three such surgeries and the edema came back again and again.”

Faraj added that “the operations that Rania underwent improved the situation, but the swelling in her leg still remained. That’s why we decided to perform, for the first time in Israel, an operation in which a lymph node is taken from another place in the body and transplanted into the ankle. This innovative treatment is only performed in a few places in the world.”

The operation itself

In a complex operation that lasted about eight hours, the lymphatic system transplant was performed with great success.

“The surgery was very complex,” said Faraj. “Two surgical teams worked at the same time; one removed the fat tissue with the lymph nodes from the abdomen. At the same time, a second team prepared the blood vessels in the foot area and then connected the blood vessels and implanted the fat tissue.”  

The medical center purchased an innovative system for mapping the lymphatic channels through which the doctors could plan the operation in an optimal way.

Drobot said the operation was great news for Israeli lymphedema patients.

“It is a lifelong, chronic disease. Until now, patients simply had to live with it, but over the years, the situation gets worse. This innovative surgery makes it possible to actually treat the problem. Two weeks after the operation, there was speedy improvement in the condition of Rania’s leg, and a decrease of four centimeters in circumference was measured. We believe that within a year, she will be able to completely remove the elastic stocking that most patients use to reduce the edema.”

After a five-day hospitalization, Rania was released to her home. At a check-up a month after the operation, she smiled broadly and said: “I feel much better, a very big change beyond the aesthetic appearance of my leg, I am less tired and can walk better. I thank God that we found Dr. Drobot and believe that now I will again be able to enjoy life.”