Purpose: The aim of this explorative study was to evaluate the impact of selenium in the treatment of lymphedema after radiotherapy.
Materials and methods: Between June 1996 and June 2001, 12 patients with edema of the arm and 36 patients with edema of the head-and-neck region were treated with selenium for therapy-related lymphedema. Of these 36 patients, 20 had interstitial endolaryngeal edema associated with stridor and dyspnea. All patients received sodium selenite over 4 to 6 weeks.
Results: Self-assessment using a visual analog scale (n = 48) showed a reduction of 4.3 points when comparing pre- and posttreatment values (p < 0.05). Of 20 patients with endolaryngeal edema, 13 underwent no tracheostomy, 5 underwent a temporary tracheostomy, and only 2 underwent a permanent tracheostomy. Ten of 12 patients with arm edema showed a circumference reduction of the edematous limb and improvement in the Skin-Fold Index by 23.3 points. An improvement of one stage or more was shown by the Földi or the Miller score (n = 28) in 22 (Földi score) and in 24 (Miller score) patients.
Conclusions: Treatment with sodium selenite is well tolerated and easy to deliver. Additionally, our results suggest that sodium selenite has a positive effect on secondary-developing lymphedema caused by radiation therapy alone or by irradiation after surgery.