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Lymphology. 2008 Jun;41(2):52-63.

Controlled compression and liposuction treatment for lower extremity lymphedema.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Sciences Malmö, Lund University, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Malmö University Hospital, Malmö, Sweden.


In 1987 we noticed excess adipose tissue in a patient with arm lymphedema and later, objective studies confirmed this clinical finding in patients with non-pitting arm lymphedema following breast cancer. A prospective study was begun in 1993, and its long-term results (15 years) shows overall complete reduction of the excess volume in patients with non-pitting arm lymphedema and that adipose tissue dominates the excess volume. Encouraged by these results we operated on a patient with primary and secondary elephantiasis of the leg. The edema was first transferred from a pitting to a non-pitting state by controlled compression therapy. Then liposuction was performed to remove the remaining excess adipose tissue, and complete reduction was finally achieved. The patient wears compression garments continuously and during the 11 years of followup, no recurrence has occurred. This paper explains our philosophical approach: a pitting lymphedema first should be treated conservatively to remove excess fluid, then liposuction can be performed to remove remaining excess volume bothersome to the patient.

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