Isolated limb infusion or perfusion

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Isolated limb infusion or perfusion

Chemotherapy can be given directly into a limb (an arm or leg) to help control the melanoma if it has come back (recurred) in an area close to the original melanoma, particularly if you have clusters of melanoma near the original (primary) melanoma, called in-transit metastases or satellite lesions.  

There are two similar treatments that may be given into the limb called:

Isolated limb perfusion (ILP)

Isolated limb infusion (ILI)

These treatments are specialised and will only be carried out in certain specialist centres in the UK.

The treatment is given under a general anaesthetic and you will usually be in hospital for up to a week.

The limb is isolatedusing a tight band or tourniquet which stops the blood supply circulating to the limb from the rest of your body and it also prevents the chemotherapy going to other areas of your body.  This means that higher doses of chemotherapy can be given and it is very unlikely that you will get any of the common, known side-effects of chemotherapy such as losing your hair on your head or feeling sick. During the operation, the temperature of the limb is raised as it is known that the chemotherapy works better at a higher temperature.

After the procedure, it is important to raise the limb during your hospital stay.

Possible side-effects

Side-effects may occur for up to 6-8 weeks after the procedure and will usually only affected the limb that was isolated and treated. If you do have any side-effects, it is important to let your medical team know.

Pain

You will likely have some pain and feel uncomfortable after the operation particularly when you are moving about. You will be given painkillers to take regularly for a few weeks. Please let your medical team know if you are still in pain despite the painkillers as they could prescribe something stronger.

Swelling and redness

Your limb may become red and swollen which usually happens a couple of days after your treatment. The swelling will gradually settle after about 4-6 weeks and the redness will fade, however, this can take longer and there may be some permanent change to your skin colour.

Hair loss

You will lose the hair on the limb that was treated, but this will slowly grow back again.

Nail changes

There may be some changes to your nails in the treated limb including them coming off completely. If this happens, a new nail will grow again.

Numbness or tingling

Dependent on which limb was treated, you may get numbness or tingling in your foot or hand. Please let your medical team know. This usually improves over a number of months.

Risk of blood clots

As the blood flow to your limb was altered, you are at risk of a blood clot while you recover. You will be monitored while you are in hospital and should let your medical team know if you have pain in your limb.

Infection

Very rarely, some chemotherapy may reach other parts of your body which may mean that your side-effects arent just I the limb as anticipated. You will be told after the procedure if this may have happened and your will likely stay a bit longer in hospital so you can be monitored carefully.

Lymphoedema

This is a possible long-term side-effect where your limb will feel swollen.  Lymphoedema is a build up of lymph fluid which is usually drained away by the lymphatic system. Lymphoedema is usually managed by compression bandages, exercise of the limb or specialised massage.

If you have any worries or concerns, please contact your medical team or call our:

Melanoma Helpline on 0808 801 0777

Questions you may have

  • Is this isolated limb infusion or perfusion a treatment option for me?
  • Where is the nearest hospital that offers this treatment?
  • How long is the procedure and how long will I likely be in hospital?
  • How will I know if the operation has been successful?