Liposuction of breast cancer-related arm lymphedema reduces fat and muscle hypertrophy

Tobias Karlsson, Magnus Karlsson, Karin Ohlin, Gaby Olsson, Håkan Brorson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Introduction: Adipose tissue deposition is a known consequence of lymphedema. A previous study showed that the affected arm in patients with nonpitting breast cancer-related lymphedema (BCRL) had a mean excess volume of 73% fat and 47% muscle. This condition impairs combined physiotherapy as well as more advanced microsurgical methods. Liposuction is, therefore, a way of improving the effects of treatment. Objective: This study aims to evaluate the tissue changes in lymphedematous arms after liposuction and controlled compression therapy (CCT) in patients with nonpitting BCRL. Methods and Results: Eighteen women with an age of 61 years and a duration of arm lymphedema (BCRL) of 9 years were treated with liposuction and CCT. Tissue composition of fat, lean (muscle), and bone mineral was analyzed through dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) before, and at 3 and 12 months after surgery. Excess volumes were also measured with plethysmography. The median DXA preoperative excess volume was 1425 mL (704 mL fat volume, 651 mL lean volume). The DXA excess volume at 3 months after surgery was 193 mL (−196 mL fat volume, 362 mL lean volume). At 12 months after surgery, the median excess DXA volume was 2 mL (−269 mL fat volume, 338 mL lean volume). From before surgery to 3 months after surgery, the median DXA excess volume reduced by 85% (p < 0.001) (fat volume reduction 128% (p < 0.001), lean volume reduction 37% (p = 0.016)). From before surgery to 12 months after surgery, it reduced by 100% (p < 0.001) (fat volume reduction 139% [p < 0.001], lean volume reduction 54% [p = 0.0013]). Conclusions: Liposuction and CCT effectively remove the excess fat in patients with nonpitting BCRL, and a total reduction of excess arm volume is achievable. A postoperative decrease in excess muscle volume is also seen, probably due to the reduced weight of the arm postoperatively.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalLymphatic Research and Biology
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • breast cancer
  • lymphedema
  • liposuction
  • muscle
  • fat
  • DXA

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