Schaverien, M.V., Munro, K.J., Baker, P.A., & Munnoch, D.A. (2012). Liposuction for chronic lymphoedema of the upper limb- 5 years of experience. Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery, 65, 935–942.doi: 10.1016/j.bjps.2012.01.021
To describe the five-year follow-up results of the use of liposuction for arm lymphedema after breast cancer treatment
Patients who had chronic arm lymphedema who were compliant with use of compression garments were referred for liposuction surgery. Study questionnaires and limb volume measures were performed pre- and postoperatively. Limb volume was measured at 2 and 4 weeks postoperatively and at 3 months, 6 months, and yearly for 5 years. Specific liposuction technique was described. Patients had a custom-made pressure garment applied at the time of the surgery. All received 5-day courses of antibiotics, analgesia, and limb elevation. Patients were discharged on day 4.
The study was conducted at a single site, inpatient and outpatient setting, in the United Kingdom.
This study involved prospective analysis.
No surgical complications occurred. The mean percent reduction in arm volume after surgery was 84%. At one year after surgery, the mean volume difference between operated and unaffected arms was 29 ml. At two years, a mean volume ratio of the operated to nonoperated arm of 0.98 was found, demonstrating that volumes were virtually the same. In 11 patients, postoperative anxiety scores declined (p = 0.049). Researchers noted that ongoing compliance with use of compression garments was essential to continued effect.
Findings suggest that liposuction and ongoing use of compression garments may be a promising approach to manage upper extremity lymphedema in patients after surgery for breast cancer.
Further research into this intervention is needed to further validate these findings in comparison with other approaches. Liposuction may have some benefit for patients with lymphedema that is not adequately controlled by other means. The procedure for this application is very specific and requires specific surgical training in this technique.