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Med Princ Pract 2004;13:185–190

Selenium in the Treatment of Head and Neck Lymphedema

Bruns F.a,b,f · Büntzel J.c,f · Mücke R.d,f · Schönekaes K.f · Kisters K.e,f · Micke O.b,f
aDepartment of Radiotherapy, Medical School Hannover, Hannover, bDepartment of Radiotherapy, Münster University Hospital, Münster, cDepartment of Otolaryngology, Community Hospital Nordhausen, Nordhausen, dDepartment of Radiotherapy, Community Hospital Weiden, Weiden, and eDepartment of Internal Medicine, St. Anna Hospital Herne, Herne, Germany; fGerman Working Group Trace Elements and Electrolytes in Radiation Oncology (AKTE)
email Corresponding Author

 goto top of outline Key Words

  • Selenium
  • Sodium selenite
  • Glutathione peroxidase
  • Radiotherapy
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Lymphedema
  • Endolaryngeal edema

 goto top of outline Abstract

Objective: To investigate the impact of selenium in the treatment of lymphedema of the head and neck region after radiotherapy alone or in combination with surgery. Subjects and Materials: Between June 1996 and June 2001 a total of 36 cancer patients (29 male, 7 female; median age 61 years) were treated with selenium for persistent, extensive or progressive lymphedema of the head and neck region. Twenty had interstitial endolaryngeal edema associated with stridor and dyspnea. All patients received 350 μg/m2 body surface sodium selenite medication p.o. daily (total dose 50 μg per day) for a period of 4–6 weeks after radiotherapy. The optimal effect of the selenium treatment was assessed after 4 weeks of therapy using the Miller score system. A visual analogue scale on a scale of 0–10 was used to assess the patient’s quality of life prior to and after selenium. Results: 75% of the patients had an improvement of the Miller score of one stage or more. The self-assessment of quality of life using the visual analogue scale improved significantly after selenium treatment with a reduction of 4.4 points (p < 0.05). Of the 20 patients with endolaryngeal edema tracheostomy was not necessary in 13 patients (65%), but 5 and 2 received a temporary or permanent tracheostomy, respectively. No episode of erysipelas was observed in all study patients. Conclusion: Our results suggest a short positive effect of sodium selenite on secondary head and neck lymphedema caused by radiotherapy alone or in combination with surgery.

Copyright © 2004 S. Karger AG, Basel

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 goto top of outline Author Contacts

Dr. Oliver Micke
Klinik und Poliklinik für Strahlentherapie-Radioonkologie
Universitätsklinikum Münster, Albert-Schweitzer-Strasse 33
DE–48129 Münster (Germany)
Tel. +49 251 8347839, Fax +49 251 8347355, E-Mail

 goto top of outline Article Information

Received: August 3, 2002
Revised: August 25, 2003
Number of Print Pages : 6
Number of Figures : 1, Number of Tables : 3, Number of References : 38

 goto top of outline Publication Details

Medical Principles and Practice
A Publication of the Academic Publications Council

Vol. 13, No. 4, Year 2004 (Cover Date: July-August 2004)

Journal Editor: Farida Al Awadi, Kuwait
ISSN: 1011–7571 (print), 1423–0151 (Online)

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