Chemotherapy into a limb for melanoma

Chemotherapy can be given directly into a limb to help control melanoma that has come back in one area.

You may have chemotherapy directly into a limb to treat clusters of melanomas in the arm or leg where the melanoma started.

Chemotherapy into a limb is also called isolated limb perfusion (ILP) or isolated limb infusion (ILI). It allows chemotherapy and sometimes another anti-cancer drug to be given directly to a leg or arm.

During these procedures, doctors use a tight band to stop blood flow in the limb. This is called a tourniquet. This stops the drugs getting into the rest of the body. You need to stay in hospital for a few days to have these treatments.

  • Isolated limb perfusion (ILP)

    ILP is given under a general anaesthetic. During ILP, the surgeon temporarily disconnects the blood flow between your affected limb and the rest of your body. The blood from your limb is circulated through an external pump and back into your limb. Oxygen is also added to the blood going to the limb. The chemotherapy drugs are given into the blood that circulates through your limb.

  • Isolated limb infusion (ILI)

    Isolated limb perfusion (ILI) may sometimes be used instead of ILP. With ILI, the blood does not circulate through a pump and no oxygen is added. Because of this, the tourniquet cannot be used for as long as an ILP. This reduces the amount of time that chemotherapy can circulate in the limb.

After the procedure

The nurses and doctors will monitor you closely to make sure you do not have any complications. Any complications will usually be picked up early. You will have to rest and raise (elevate) your limb.

Side effects

Your specialist will explain any side effects to you and tell you what to expect. Side effects usually get better after 6 to 8 weeks, but in some people, they may last longer.

The side effects usually only affect the treated limb. You may get some pain in the limb and your muscles and joints might be inflamed. The limb may become red and swollen and occasionally the skin may blister.

Your doctor and specialist nurse will give you more information and tell you what to expect about chemotherapy into a limb.

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