King Edward VII’s Hospital introduces new breast cancer surgery techniques


One of the Harley Street Medical Area’s pioneering hospitals has introduced two innovative new procedures designed to reduce the debilitating side effects of breast cancer surgeries

King Edward VII’s Hospital has started incorporating two innovative new procedures which combine the expertise of breast surgeons and microsurgeons to combat some of the damaging long-term side effects of breast cancer surgeries.

The first of these, the lymphatic microsurgical healing approach (LYMPHA), reduces the risk of secondary breast cancer-related lymphoedema (BCRL), a chronic, painful and often progressive condition in which excess fluid collects in tissues, causing swelling. Using a combination of a paramagnetic tracer and fluorescent imaging, LYMPHA allows the surgical team to redirect waste products from the lymphatic system into the veins – a technique that has been demonstrated in several studies to significantly reduce the risk of BRCL.

Consultant breast and reconstructive surgeon Mr Paul Thiruchelvam, who leads the King Edward VII’s team and works very closely with consultant plastic and microsurgical surgeons Mr Navid Jallali and Miss Judith Hunter, commented: “In my career I have seen many patients suffer from the debilitating effects of lymphedema. It is incredibly rewarding to be able to reduce women’s risk of suffering from this long-term condition.”

Delighted with the results
Miss Hunter added: “Lymphoedema can be very debilitating and has traditionally been a challenge to treat. Recently, there has been renewed interest in microsurgical approaches to address this condition, but as with anything, prevention has turned out to be better than cure. Paul, Navid and I had the privilege of travelling to Genoa a few years ago to learn from the pioneer of the LYMPHA technique, and we have been delighted with our early results back in London. If a patient is having a lymph node dissection along with a mastectomy, and we are already there with the skills and equipment to perform an immediate breast reconstruction, it makes sense to offer them the LYMPHA procedure too.”

LYMPHA has been introduced alongside a second ground-breaking procedure: deep inferior epigastric artery perforator (DIEP) flap reconstruction, a complex type of microsurgical breast reconstructive surgery. DIEP flap reconstruction transposes fat, skin and blood vessels from the lower abdomen and moves them up to the chest to rebuild the breast mound following mastectomy. This has the potential to reduce the incidence of fat necrosis, a condition in which the tissue used to rebuild the breast dies, leading to lumpiness and unpleasant textures. Lumps caused by skin-flap necrosis not only affect the patient’s quality of life but may require further clinical assessment.