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Liposuction for lymphoedema is a treatment for established lymphoedema where reconstructive microsurgical operations such as Lymphatico-Venular Anastomosis (LVA) or vascularised Lymph Node Transfer (VLNT) are not suitable.

Liposuction addresses the long-term effects of lymphoedema where excess fat tissue occurs in the arm or the leg. This most commonly occurs when lymphoedema develops after cancer treatment (secondary lymphoedema) but can occur spontaneously, known as primary lymphoedema.

What does liposuction for lymphoedema involve?

Liposuction for lymphoedema involves high-volume liposuction with specific equipment and training relevant to the condition of lymphoedema. It is quite different to standard liposuction approaches and beyond an operation under general anaesthesia, this requires three days in hospital and an ongoing commitment to wearing compression garments following surgery.

How should I prepare for the surgery?

The use of compression garments is essential for this surgery to be successful. A commitment to wearing garments that are fitted by your lymphoedema practitioner is essential. New garments will be provided for you after surgery to fit the contour and size of your new normal limb volume.

How long is the recovery process?

Short term recovery

This surgery requires staying in hospital for three days after the operation to manage new garment fitting and basic wound care. You should be able to drive again after 10-14 days, but make sure you can wear a seat belt comfortably and can practice an emergency stop without feeling discomfort.

Long term recovery

The recovery process after this surgery occurs in stages. It is likely that all wounds will be fully healed within a few days. Your limb will still feel swollen for some time after the operation and it can be up to 6 months or a year until the final normal limb volume is established. A few compression garment appointments are required during this time.

Specific risks and complications of this treatment

The risks of the surgery are similar to the risks of any limb liposuction surgery. There are small scars down the affected limb that are used as access for liposuction. These typically heal well and are of little cosmetic concern. Rarely scars can become lumpy, stretched, itchy or coloured. Use of compression garments is essential to prevent long-term re-accumulation of excess volume. Numbness of the skin overlying liposuction areas can persist for some weeks but this typically recovers to normal months after the surgery is complete.

Alternative procedures

The main alternatives to this surgery are reconstructive microsurgical approaches to lymphoedema such as LVAs and VLNT. The suitability for those operations depends on how established your lymphoedema is. 

Ways to pay

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