Doctors transfer salivary gland into patient’s forearm
WÜRZBURG, Germany: An ENT surgeon from Germany has successfully tested a new surgical method to help mouth cancer patients with dry mouth syndrome. In a pilot project, he and his surgical team transferred a man’s submandibular gland into his forearm and re-implanted the gland after the patient had completed radiation therapy, which would have caused significant damage to the organ.
The technique was developed by Prof. Rudolf Hagen, director of the ENT clinic and plastic and aesthetic surgery at the University of Würzburg’s Hospital. In February this year, he removed a salivary gland from the neck of a 69-year-old tumour patient and transplanted the organ to the patient’s forearm temporarily. “We connected the salivary gland to the arm blood vessels and directed its excretory duct to the skin surface. There, the produced saliva was collected in a small disposable bag,” described Hagen. Following two months of radiation therapy and two subsequent months of recovery, Hagen re-implanted the gland. According to the clinic, the organ is fully functional and no problems have arisen.
According to Hagen, intensive radiotherapy is generally necessary in patients with malignant head and neck tumours. The therapy often damages the salivary glands permanently and causes dry mouth, a condition that also negatively affects patients’ teeth and gums, as it can lead to tooth decay.
Although radiotherapy has become less aggressive, especially with regard to parotid glands, this is not the case for submandibular glands, Hagen added. As he was able to maintain full functionality of at least one of the six large salivary glands with the new method, Hagen hopes that the new method could help many mouth cancer patients suffering from dry mouth.
Every year, up to 100 patients who could be treated with this method are admitted to the clinic in Würzburg. Currently, more patients are awaiting their transplantation surgery, the clinic announced.