Isolated limb perfusion for advanced melanoma

Author: Brian Wu PhD. MD Candidate, Keck School of Medicine, Los Angeles, USA; Chief Editor: Dr Amanda Oakley, Dermatologist, Hamilton, New Zealand, August 2015.

What is isolated limb perfusion?

Isolated limb perfusion is a treatment method usually used in advanced cases of melanoma. It is also sometimes used for sarcoma and other cancers. It was developed in the 1950s as an alternative to amputation, which was often the standard of care when cutaneous melanoma metastases (secondaries) arose in one limb. Isolated limb perfusion with cytotoxic medications is intended to get rid of the metastases.

In this procedure:

  1. The femoral artery and vein (if treating a leg) or the axillary artery and vein (if treating the arm) are clamped. Subclavian or iliac approaches in this procedure are also possible but less common. A tourniquet is applied to produce pressure on the smaller vessels, thus isolating the limb from the rest of the body.
  2. Tubes are inserted into affected limb and attached to a machine to circulate heated chemotherapy medications (cytotoxic drugs). A combination of phenylalanine mustard and actinomycin D is often used.
  3. The cytotoxic drugs are allowed to circulate for 60–90 minutes; the limb is then allowed to cool and then is flushed to remove any residual medication.
  4. The tubes are removed and the vessels reattached before closure of the incision. The patient can then be sent to recovery.

When should isolated limb perfusion be considered?

Patients should be carefully selected for isolated limb perfusion. Indications for isolated limb perfusion may include the following criteria:

Isolated limb perfusion can be a stand-alone therapy or can be used in combination with surgical resection or other treatments.

What is the appearance of the limb after isolated limb perfusion?

After this procedure, there can be distinct physical changes in the affected limb. These include:

How well does isolated limb perfusion work?

Reports about isolated limb perfusion procedure for melanoma indicate:

Patients with poor prognosis receive the greatest benefit from this procedure.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of isolated limb perfusion?

The benefits of isolated limb perfusion for advanced localised melanoma include:

The drawbacks of isolated limb perfusion include:

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