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Limb Salvage Surgery

Limb Salvage Surgery Overview

The surgery performed to remove soft-tissue and bone cancer in the limbs while retaining the unaffected parts is limb salvage surgery. The procedure is done to remove the cancer and avoid amputation (while retaining the greatest possible degree of function and preserving the patient’s appearance). Limb salvage surgery is a common procedure to treat bone sarcomas and tumors and soft tissue sarcomas that affect the extremities.

In essence, limb salvage surgery has become an alternative to amputation and is performed to treat cancers that originate in the limb and those cancers that have not invaded the soft tissues yet. Decades ago, the standard treatment route for patients with cancer in the limb was amputation of the affected extremity. Fortunately, thanks to dramatic improvements in surgical techniques (resection and reconstruction ), imaging methods (CT scans and MRIs), and high survival rates of patients treated using chemotherapy, limb cancer treatment will no longer always involve losing the extremity affected.

Otherwise known as limb-sparing surgery, limb salvage surgery entails removing the cancer and a margin of the surrounding healthy tissues. Once removed, the bone will be replaced. The replacement can be in the form of synthetic metal implant (prosthesis) or a piece of bone (graft). The graft can be taken from the patient’s own body (autologous transplant) or it can come from a donor body (cadaver) and frozen until needed for the transplant (allograft). In time, the transplanted bone will eventually grow into the patient’s remaining bone. Radiation, chemotherapy, or a combination of both may be used to shrink the tumor before surgery is carried out.

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