Referral patterns to a surgical lymphoedema service: 10 years of experience

Isabel Teo*, D. A. Munnoch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Introduction Liposuction for lymphoedematous limbs is an effective treatment for chronic lymphoedema, with excellent long-term results in well-selected patients. In 2008 NICE produced guidelines 'Liposuction for Chronic lymphoedema', acknowledging this treatment modality. However, there remain very few centers that provide this service in the United Kingdom. We aim to share our experience of our referral system at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, Scotland. Methods A 10 year prospective database from 2005 to 2014 was analysed. Referral sources, patient demographics, diagnosis and treatment offered were examined. Results There were 221 referrals in total, 190 (86%) female and 31 (14%) male. The mean age was 51 (range 7-86 years). 127 (58%) were referred via their general practitioners, 72 (33%) from a hospital consultant and 22 (10%) from a lymphoedema nurse specialist. 153 (69%) referrals were from Scotland, 61 (28%) from England and 7 (3%) from Northern Ireland. The majority of patients 165 (75%) were referred with lower limb swelling. Following assessment in clinic, 146 (66%) were found to have lymphoedema whilst the rest were deemed to have other non-lymphoedematous diagnoses which include lipoedema (47, 21%), dependent oedema (8, 4%) and obesity (5, 2%). 131 (59%) were offered liposuction- 74 (34%) have received liposuction, 18 (8%) are awaiting their procedure, 3 (1%) have declined surgery, 27 (12%) are awaiting funding approval and 9 (4%) have been declined funding by their primary care trust/clinical commissioning group (PCT/CCG). 4 (2%) are awaiting investigations to further evaluate the cause of their swelling, whilst the remaining 86 (39%) were felt unsuitable for surgery and were treated conservatively. Conclusion Chronic lymphoedema is a challenging condition to treat, with few specialist centers offering surgical treatment. We hereby share our referral process, diagnosis and management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1395-1401
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Chronic lymphoedema
  • Funding
  • Liposuction
  • Referral patterns


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