Toddler has pioneering liposuction after her hands swell to TRIPLE the size

Cora Ruben was born with lymphoedema, a genetic disorder which results in extreme swelling all over her body.

The two-year-old currently has swelling on her belly, legs, feet and most obviously hands.

It's being caused by a build-up of lymph fluid and as she gets older, experts believe that the issue is only going to get worse.

But after numerous failed treatments, parents Kasey and Brett, from Minnesota, USA, have found that the size her hands can actually be reduced via liposuction.

"Her hands are obviously the biggest thing that people see," said dad Brett.

"But what people don't know is she's actually got it in most of her body. It's through her abdomen, both legs, both feet. Her genitals, through her arms.

"As she gets older, it's only going to get worse."

Kasey had a normal pregnancy but immediately after giving birth, doctors noticed something odd about Cora's hands.

They wrote the swelling off as a normal side effect of birth – believing that it'd go down of its own accord over the following weeks.

"But we saw the paedriatician and that's when she suggested that it may be lymphoedema," explained Brett.

What is lymphedema?

The condition develops when your lymphatic system stops working effectively. That's the network of glands which helps fight infection and remove excess fluid.

It causes swelling in the body's tissues and that can affect any part of the body.

There are two types of lymphoedema.

Primary lymphoedema is what Cora has; it's a rare genetic disorder caused by mutations in the genes responsible for the development of the lymphatic system.

Secondary lymphoedema happens when someone's lymphatic system becomes damaged.

That can happen if they've had surgery for cancer which has involved removing sections of the lymphatic system, radiotherapy, they've had certain infections or inflammation, they've had an injury or they're severely obese.

Symptoms can include:

  • swelling in all or part of a limb or part of a body
  • an aching, heavy feeling
  • difficulty with movement
  • repeated skin infections
  • hard, tight skin
  • folds developing in the skin
  • wart-like growths developing on the skin
  • fluid leaking through the skin

The incurable condition is progressive, meaning that it gets worse with time.

Although there are a number of treatments available such as regular massaging to move the flow of lymph fluid, nothing has worked so far for Cora.

Kasey added: "In her case it has been growing, and that's what alarmed doctors adn her physical therapist.

"It is still worsening and we haven't been able to control it like you usually can with massages, wrapping and compression."

Just when the couple believed that they'd run out of options, a lymphoedema expert suggested they visit the Földi Clinic in Hinterzarten, Germany.

The family flew over to meet with Professor Etelka Földi, one of the world leading experts in the condition, who first prescribed a lymph drainage massage.

But after examining the toddler's hands, Professor Földi found that lymph fluid only made up around 20 per cent of Cora's hands – the rest was actually fatty tissue.

Kasey said: “She said it was 80 percent fat, 20 percent lymphedema, and the reason why her swelling wasn’t responding was because the fat was basically keeping us from appropriately compressing her hands.

“When you can’t treat the condition like you’re supposed to, when she’s not responding it’s, it brings up more anxiety.”

No one knows yet what's causing that fatty tissue build up as it's not usually linked to lymphoedema.

Professor Földi said: “Lymphoedema is in essence a chronic disease caused by the inefficiency of the lymph drainage system. When the lymph drainage system is inefficient then inflammation develops.”

To remove the issue, Professor Földi has suggested performing liposuction on the toddler's hands, which should then enable massage and compression bandages to reduce the rest of Cora's swellings.

Despite some residual swelling, Kasey says that she's seen a significant improvement in her little daughter's hands.

Shesaid thatt although no one likes the thought of their child having to have surgery, the pair are willing to do anything they can to give Cora the change of a healthy, happy life.

“Her ability to pick up things is just tremendously better. We’re able to push the fluid, her hands are soft, they’re not hard, they’re not heavy anymore," Kasey explained.

“Her hands are soft enough now and they fit in her garments which compress her hands.

"When those are on, she can fit her hands in regular sleeves and she can do anything else anybody else can do.”

Professor Földi added: “I am almost certain that Cora can lead a normal life. Someday she will be a happy woman.”

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