Health Headlines: Organ player gets back control of hands after lymphedema surgery

Published: Nov. 21, 2022 at 8:54 PM CST
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - Lymphedema is a condition where fluid gets trapped in an arm or leg and causes swelling, most often after cancer surgery to remove lymph nodes.

Until recently, patients were told there was nothing they could do except wear a compression sleeve to control swelling.

Now, surgeons have better options for some patients.

Pandora Porcase has been a musician for 60 years. Thirty-five years ago she was diagnosed with cancer in her left breast, and it had spread.

“I had 33 nodes that were positive,” Porcase said.

Doctors treated the cancer and removed the cancerous nodes. Months later, Porcase’s arm started to swell - a sign of lymphedema.

“I saw the growth in my hand, my wrist, in my forearm,” she said.

Porcase still wears a glove and compression sleeve to control the swelling.

In 2014, doctors diagnosed her with cancer in her right breast. This time, when swelling started again, plastic surgeon Dr. Roman Skoracki, M.D., had a plan.

“We actually transplanted lymph nodes from one part of her body into two different areas of her upper extremity,” Skoracki said.

Skoracki performed a lymphovenous bypass. Using microsurgery, he bypassed damaged nodes and connected to veins so the fluids could drain.

The doctor also used liposuction to clear the arm of deposits.

“We remove the fat that’s underneath the skin with our cannula,” Skoracki said.

Porcase’s arm isn’t perfect, but she’s got good control over her hands and fingers.

“It’s wonderful to see her be able to do the things that she loves to do,” Skoracki said.

Now she can continue playing the organ.

“I just love it. I love the sound of it. It’s the king of all instruments,” Porcase said.

The surgery keeps Pandora Porcase perfectly in tune.

Skoracki said the surgery had improved in the eight years since Pandora’s second case of cancer. Surgeons can now perform the bypass at the same time the nodes are removed.