Isolated Limb Perfusion (ILP)

Isolated Limb Perfusion is a surgical procedure. This is where we deliver chemotherapy into a limb (arm or leg) affected by a tumour. This is a type of “regional chemotherapy.” It lets us administer very high doses of chemotherapy straight into the tumour. By isolating the limb from the rest of your body’s blood supply, we can distribute the drugs to the limb alone. This means that ILP treats the tumour and avoids many of the toxic side effects of chemotherapy

Cancer Education
2 min read

We perform Isolated Limb Perfusion with two chemotherapy drugs: Melphalan and Tumour necrosis factor-alpha. ILP using tumour necrosis factor-alpha has become an important technique. It helps us manage patients with advanced soft-tissue tumours of the limbs. We have proven it to be effective at avoiding amputation when other treatments are not.

Who can get Isolated Limb Perfusion (ILP)

We can use ILP to treat several different tumour types, the most common being:  

  • Melanoma  

  • Sarcoma 

We can also use it in some other types of skin and soft-tissue tumours. We usually recommend it where the standard surgery to remove your tumour is not possible. 

Soft-tissue cancers can include tumours that need amputation. We use ILP as an alternative. It has proven to be successful in preventing amputation in many patients. 

We can perform another form of regional chemotherapy. We call this form Isolated Limb Infusion (ILI). ILI and ILP are effective for treating inoperable melanoma. ILP is superior for treating sarcoma and other soft tissue tumours. 

The Isolated Limb Perfusion (ILP) procedure 

  1. As ILP is a surgical procedure, we will first put you under general anaesthesia

  2. We make an incision in your arm or leg to find the main blood vessels

  3. The surgeon then places large tubes into your artery and vein, and a tourniquet on the top of the limb. This disconnects the blood supply of the limb from the rest of the body for a short time. It then prevents any chemotherapy leaking back into the body 

  4. We connect the tubes to a machine that adds oxygen and chemotherapy to your own blood and pumps it into the limb

  5. We pump the blood and chemotherapy around the limb for about an hour and then washed out

  6. We remove the tubes and stitch up the artery and vein

  7. We then return the blood flow between your limb and the rest of the body and stitch the skin closed

  8. Afterwards, you go to the ward where you can recover

  9. You will usually stay in hospital for about five days

What are the side-effects and risks of Isolated Limb Perfusion? 

ILP has some side effects and risks like all surgical procedures. Most of these side effects and risks are minor and well-tolerated. Some side effects that you may experience are listed below.  

  • After ILP you will have some pain, swelling and redness in the limb. This often lasts for six to eight weeks (about two months). Simple painkillers like paracetamol are adequate treatments in most people

  • You might get more severe symptoms after ILP that need a longer stay in hospital. These usually settle without needing any specific treatment 

  • Very severe side-effects, whilst possible, are very rare

Related pages

Melanoma & Skin 

Isolated Limb Perfusion for Malignant Melanoma: Systematic Review on Effectiveness and Safety

Hayden Snow