Liposuction for advanced lymphedema: a multidisciplinary approach for complete reduction of arm and leg swelling

John Boyages*, Katrina Kastanias, Louise A. Koelmeyer, Caleb J. Winch, Thomas C. Lam, Kerry A. Sherman, David Alex Munnoch, Håkan Brorson, Quan D. Ngo, Asha Heydon-White, John S. Magnussen, Helen Mackie

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    95 Citations (Scopus)
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    Purpose: This research describes and evaluates a liposuction surgery and multidisciplinary rehabilitation approach for advanced lymphedema of the upper and lower extremities. Methods: A prospective clinical study was conducted at an Advanced Lymphedema Assessment Clinic (ALAC) comprised of specialists in plastic surgery, rehabilitation, imaging, oncology, and allied health, at Macquarie University, Australia. Between May 2012 and 31 May 2014, a total of 104 patients attended the ALAC. Eligibility criteria for liposuction included (i) unilateral, non-pitting, International Society of Lymphology stage II/III lymphedema; (ii) limb volume difference greater than 25 %; and (iii) previously ineffective conservative therapies. Of 55 eligible patients, 21 underwent liposuction (15 arm, 6 leg) and had at least 3 months postsurgical follow-up (85.7 % cancer-related lymphedema). Liposuction was performed under general anesthesia using a published technique, and compression garments were applied intraoperatively and advised to be worn continuously thereafter. Limb volume differences, bioimpedance spectroscopy (L-Dex), and symptom and functional measurements (using the Patient-Specific Functional Scale) were taken presurgery and 4 weeks postsurgery, and then at 3, 6, 9, and 12 months postsurgery. Results: Mean presurgical limb volume difference was 45.1 % (arm 44.2 %; leg 47.3 %). This difference reduced to 3.8 % (arm 3.6 %; leg 4.3 %) by 6 months postsurgery, a mean percentage volume reduction of 89.6 % (arm 90.2 %; leg 88.2 %) [p < 0.001]. All patients had improved symptoms and function. Bioimpedance spectroscopy showed reduced but ongoing extracellular fluid, consistent with the underlying lymphatic pathology. Conclusions: Liposuction is a safe and effective option for carefully selected patients with advanced lymphedema. Assessment, treatment, and follow-up by a multidisciplinary team is essential.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)S1263-S1270
    Number of pages8
    JournalAnnals of Surgical Oncology
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright the Author(s) 2015. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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