Lymphatic Malformations

Malformations in the lymphatic system, called lymphangiomas, are overgrowths of the one-way lymph
channels. Rarely, in infants and children, these channels grow abnormally large and cause deformity or death if the overgrowth chokes off a child’s airway or interferes with other aspects of heart and lung function. The
deformity tends to grow with the child, worsening over time and is difficult to treat.
Physicians at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford (Links to an external site.) discovered, essentially by accident, that a common drug – sildenafil, a.k.a. Viagra – appears to shrink the overgrown vessels. They gave sildenafil to a child with a severe lymphangioma to treat another condition, pulmonary hypertension and noticed that the lymph malformation shrank significantly. Unfortunately, the child’s underlying condition was so
severe that she later died; however, two subsequent patients have done well on the medication.
“There has been no medical treatment for lymphangiomas; now all of a sudden there may be one,” said Al
Lane, MD, a co-author on the NEJM letter published January 2012 and an investigator on the lymphangioma research now being conducted. The mechanism by which the drug could resolve the malformations is not known, however, there’s a possibility that sildenafil may help to open and drain the channels,” Lane said.
The drug (Viagra) has been used to treat pulmonary hypertension in children. Its typical side effects in children are nausea, headaches and cold-like symptoms such as a runny nose or fever, Lane said. Spontaneous erections are possible but are an infrequent side effect. Discuss your thoughts on studying and utilizing Viagra
as a treatment for lymphangioma and its side effects in children.
Source: Lane, A. (2012, January 26). Sildenafil for Severe Lymphatic Malformations. New England Journal of
Medicine, 366. Retrieved from: (Links to an external site.)

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