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Liposuction Reduces Swelling and Pain Associated with Lymphedema

Swelling from Lymphedema Falls after Liposuction

November 13, 2017

By Arturo Loaiza-Bonilla, MD, MSEd

Liposuction for primary or secondary lymphedema led to substantial reductions in limb swelling and associated pain, according to a case report in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Three patients underwent liposuction to remove subcutaneous adipose tissue from a limb affected by lymphedema. Clinicians removed 1,200 and 1,900 mL of tissue from two patients with lymphedema secondary to treatment for breast cancer. A third patient with primary lymphedema affecting a leg had 2,800 mL of tissue removed.
During follow-up of 16 to 65 months, the three patients reported that swelling in the affected hand or foot decreased considerably. All patients had a positive Stemmer's sign preoperatively, converting to negative after liposuction.
"Our results show that liposuction ... may have a physiological benefit," Arin K. Greene, MD, of Boston Children's Hospital, and co-authors wrote in a research letter. "Liposuction reduced swelling in the distal limb and changed the transit of radiolabeled sulfur colloid through lymphatic vasculature. This effect might explain the favorable long-term outcomes of liposuction that have been observed."
Loaiza-Bonilla is affiliated with Cancer Treatment Centers of America.  

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