Poppy seed oil for lymphatic system leaks

PHILADELPHIA -- (02/09/2018) -- What happens when a baby’s lymphatic system, the system that circulates critical fluids through the body, doesn’t function as it should? For some, the buildup of fluid can be deadly. Meet Lilly, initially diagnosed with a rare condition during mom’s pregnancy, and the out-of-the box treatment that saved Lilly’s life.

Lilly is a happy, active toddler.

You’d never suspect that while mom was pregnant, her 20-week fetal ultrasound revealed lymphatic fluid, pooling in Lilly’s chest.

Yoav Dori, MD, PhD, Director of Pediatric Lymphatic Imaging and Interventions and Lymphatic Research, Cardiac Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia explained, “We know that kids who have that finding in utero, after birth, are going to have a certain kind of lymphatic abnormality.”

In Lilly’s case, she had a condition called neonatal chylothorax, causing fluid buildup. Doctors put a shunt in, problem over. But a few days after her birth, Lilly underwent a diagnostic test.

“That MRI that day changed our entire lives,” said Cortney Johnson, Lilly’s Mother.

Part of her lymphatic system was flowing in the wrong direction--- from the thoracic duct towards the lungs, a rare condition. This caused leaks, which led to fluid buildup.

Johnson continued, “She needed an emergency chest tube and they were considering possibly intubating her to give her lungs a break, because they were on the verge of collapsing.”

Instead, Dr. Dori decided on a novel method to stop the lung leaks; injecting poppy seed oil through the groin and into the lungs.

Doctor Dori explained, “Because these leaks are small, the poppy seed oil, we think, preferentially goes to where the leaks are, and then causes inflammation and ultimately causes sclerosing, so the channels shut down. And that stops the leak. After a few days, we continued to manage her conservatively and she’s doing amazingly well.”

“I thank him every day for my little girl,” said Johnson.

This is a rare condition and doctors are uncertain as to the cause. Although Cortney and her husband underwent extensive genetic testing, nothing raised red flags. Doctors still don’t know what caused Lilly’s medical problems. For more information, visit CHOP’s website at chop.edu.