£773,000 funding for pioneering lymphoedema ‘super microsurgery’ in Wales
The first patients have undergone pioneering ‘super microsurgery’ to treat lymphoedema in Wales following a £773,000 funding boost from the Welsh Government.
Wales has become only the second place in the UK to provide the life-changing operation, building on its growing reputation for providing world-class lymphoedema services.
Lymphoedema is a chronic swelling caused by lymphatic system failure, which can be a side-effect of surgical and radiotherapy treatment for cancer, but is also linked to faulty genes or can be the result of infection or injury. It is incurable and requires lifelong management.
£312,000 funding from the Welsh Government’s health technology and telehealth fund, has been used to set up the provision of lymphatic venous anastomosis (LVA) surgery, a super microsurgical technique which joins defunct lymphatics to a functioning vein.
The procedure, which was previously only available at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, has been found to reduce episodes of cellulitis, resulting in patients no longer needing to use compression garments to relieve symptoms.
The Welsh service uses a hub and spoke model – all surgery take places in Neath Port Talbot Hospital, in Baglan and with pre and post-operative care is provided locally on board the Tenovus Care mobile unit.
The Welsh Government funding has also bought mobile devices with telehealth capability for use on the mobile unit. This enables information to be transferred and remote consultations to take place with the unit at Neath Port Talbot Hospital. Liposuction equipment has also been invested in, providing an alternative treatment for those people who are not suitable for LVA.
£377,000 of funding has been made available through the Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee (WHSSC) for up to 42 patients across Wales to receive the procedure annually as part of a two-year evaluation of the benefits of LVA. The first operations took place at the beginning of September.
Health and Social Services Minister, Mark Drakeford said:
“Wales has a lymphoedema service which is leading the way in the UK and in Europe. We want to continue to improve the support available to people suffering with lymphoedema.
“Lymphoedema can affect people of all ages and can occur in any part of the body. It affects people physically, psychologically and socially, having a significant impact on quality of life and the ability to undertake the normal activities of daily living.
“Last year, I was able to approve investment in this new pioneering form of microsurgery, which will benefit many patients across Wales who suffer with this debilitating condition.
“This innovative project has made good progress, so I am pleased to announce additional funding of £84,000 from the health technology and telehealth fund. This will enable the lymphoedema service to develop a number of video prescriptions and apps to assist patients with self-management of their condition, in partnership with local firm, eHealth Digital Media Ltd.”
Melanie Thomas, the national clinical lead for lymphoedema in Wales said:
“I am extremely grateful for the support we have received from the Welsh Government’s Health Technology and Telehealth Fund in allowing lymphoedema patients the opportunity to reduce the symptoms that they have to live with every day.
“LVA is a pioneering technique and Lymphoedema Network Wales will be leading the way in research and evaluation of this programme. Supporting patients with new innovative technology like the video prescriptions will help patients to fully engage and plan their own care in their own time, which will make for a better patient- therapist relationship.”
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