Liposuction in Arm Lymphedema Treatment
Breast cancer is the most common disease in women, and up to 38% develop lymphedema of the arm following mastectomy, standard axillary node dissection and postoperative irradiation. Limb reductions have been reported utilizing various conservative therapies such as manual lymph and pressure therapy. Some patients with long-standing pronounced lymphedema do not respond to these conservative treatments because slow or absent lymph flow causes the formation of excess subcutaneous adipose tissue.
Previous surgical regimes utilizing bridging procedures, total excision with skin grafting or reduction plasty seldom achieved acceptable cosmetic and functional results. Microsurgical reconstruction involving lympho-venous shunts or transplantation of lymph vessels has also been investigated. Although attractive in concept, the common failure of microsurgery to provide complete reduction is due to the persistence of newly formed subcutaneous adipose tissue, which is not removed in patients with chronic non-pitting lymphedema.
Liposuction removes the hypertrophied adipose tissue and is a prerequisite to achieve complete reduction. The new equilibrium is maintained through constant (24-hour) use of compression garments postoperatively. Long-term follow up (7 years) does not show any recurrence of the edema.