What is Lymphedema?
The lymphatic system is part of the circulatory system and a significant part the immune system, comprising a complex and extensive drainage network of vessels that carry a fluid (lymph) throughout the body.
Lymphedema is the obstruction of the lymphatic system, is a condition where excess fluid collects in tissues causing swelling usually in one or both arms and legs, a number of patients might also experience swelling in the head, chest and genitals. Lymphedema is incurable, but the appropriate treatment can help reduce the swelling and pain.
Some patients are at risk for lymphedema as part of their cancer treatment, which can be the result of lymph node removal or radiation damage around the lymph nodes.
Liposuction, Lymphaticovenous Anastomosis (lymphovenous bypass) and Vascularized Lymph Node Transfer (lymphovenous transplant) are among the most common treatments to improve this condition.
There are several medical options to help treat lymphedema, especially during its earlier stages. At CRS plastic surgery we suggest compression, elevation, infection prevention, physical therapy and massage to help alleviate swelling and other symptoms. We can arrange medical treatments with a Lymphedema Physical Therapist.
However, if you experience symptoms of lymphedema after trying non-surgical therapeutic approaches, you may be a candidate for surgery. Our surgeons have received speciality training in lymphedema surgery at Duke University and internationally with Dr. Corinne Becker the pioneer in vascularized lymph node transplant.
If your lymphedema progresses despite using medical treatments, you may be a candidate for surgery. There are several options that your doctor will discuss with you:
Liposuction: When lymphatic fluid overflows into your surrounding tissues, it can result in inflammation which stimulate fat stem cells to grow. Our surgeons removes this extra fat caused by lymphedema. Liposuction is typically an outpatient procedure with a very short recovery time.
Lymphaticovenous anastomosis (also referred to as lymphovenous bypass): Our surgeons utilize microsurgical techniques and equipment to reroute your lymphatic system.We are able to bypassing the damaged nodes or missing nodes and connect lymphatic channels directly into your veins. The lymphovenous bypass is an outpatient surgery. You can return to regular activity within a few days.
Vascularized lymph node transfer surgery (lymphovenous transplant): Our surgeons will transplant a group of lymph nodes from a healthy part of your body to the affected area, effectively replacing the lymphatic system in this region. This is an inpatient procedure with a recovery time of a few days before resuming regular activity.