Purpose: Lower extremity lymphedema is regarded as a relatively common postoperative complication and is often accompanied with dermatolymphangioadenitis (DLA). This study combines clinical assessment and laboratory investigation to explore therapeutic effects of far-infrared radiation (FIR) therapy for chronic lower extremity lymphedema accompanied with DLA, occurring after gynecological tumor resection.
Methods: Patients who met inclusion and exclusion criteria would be enrolled. They received regular sessions using the FIR therapy machine over the 4-week treatment course. Clinical and laboratory outcome measures were carried out before and after treatment. Clinical outcome measures included DLA seizure frequency (episodes/year), patients' subjective feedback for lymphedema-related symptoms and quality of life (QOL). Laboratory outcome measures included bacterial cultures and concentrations of inflammatory cytokines: IL-1β, IL-2, IL-4, IL-10, IL-12, IL-18, TNF-α, TNF-β, caspase-1 and INF-γ, detected in serum and local lymphedema tissue fluid samples using protein microarray and ELISA.
Results: Between 2012 and 2016, a total of 120 female patients were screened for study enrollment. Sixty-four recruited patients underwent clinical evaluation both before FIR radiation therapy and 1 year after a single course of FIR radiation therapy. Eleven patients (17.2%), randomly chosen from the study group, underwent additional laboratory analysis of blood and local lymphedema tissue fluid samples. The frequency of DLA decreased following treatment (p < 0.001). Fifty patients (78%) did not experience a single episode of DLA recurrence in the year subsequent to treatment. The efficiency rate calculated using DLA frequencies was greater than 50% for 63 (98%) patients following treatment. Patients reported a subjective decrease in lymphedema-related symptoms (p < 0.05). Patients' QOL scores were higher after treatment (p < 0.001). Laboratory analysis showed an elevation in serum concentration of IL-1β after FIR therapy (p < 0.05) and reduced local tissue fluid concentrations of inflammatory cytokines IL-2, IL-10 and IL-18 (p < 0.05). Bacterial culture results before and after treatment were both negative.
Conclusion: FIR radiation therapy provides an effective treatment modality for patients with chronic lymphedema accompanied with DLA that develops secondarily to treatment of gynecological malignancies, whose therapeutic effects may be due to reduced immune dysfunction within local lymphedema tissues.
Keywords: Dermatolymphangioadenitis; Far-infrared radiation; Gynecology; Lymphedema; Treatment.