Isolated Limb Infusion saves lives

Published: Nov. 8, 2017 at 7:47 AM EST
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(11/08/2017) -- Patients with advanced cancer in their arms or legs often face amputation, but a technique that channels the chemotherapy directly to the tumor is saving patient’s lives and limbs. It’s called isolated limb infusion or ILI.

Krissy Loch calls three-year-old Daisy her little miracle.

“We weren’t trying to get pregnant. We weren’t trying not to get pregnant. She just kind of showed up. We were married seven years so she was a big surprise. But she saved me,” Loch told Ivanhoe.

For twenty years, Krissy had a mass on her left forearm. She shrugged it off as a muscular problem.

Loch continued, “When I got pregnant, it started to grow more rapidly. I guess the hormones in my body, and it hurt.”

Krissy was diagnosed with advanced sarcoma, a cancer of the soft tissue. Her first doctor recommended she terminate the pregnancy and amputate the arm. Determined to save both, Krissy went to Oncology Specialist Vadim Gushchin. He suggested a technique called isolated limb infusion; doctors thread a catheter through the groin or armpit to the cancer, and put a tourniquet just above the catheter tip.

“It basically isolates the extremity from the rest of the circulation so the very toxic drugs do not get into the system,” Vadim Gushchin, MD, FACS, Surgical Oncologist at Mercy Medical Center stated.

The drugs are pumped into the region for thirty minutes, just once. Then the tourniquet must come off to prevent damage to healthy tissue.

Dr. Gushchin explained, “We did the procedure, the tumor shrunk. It shrunk enough to be excised completely with negative margins.”

Five months after ILI, Krissy delivered Daisy, full-term and in perfect health.

“She’s just everything. She’s my best friend,” Loch said.

Krissy gets scans every six months to monitor the cancer, and remains cancer-free. A recent study by the Journal of the American College of Surgeons found a nearly 80 percent rate of limb preservation with the chemotherapy technique.