What to look for in a lymphedema treatment center
Finding relief from painful lymphedema symptoms is often a long, difficult road. It’s not uncommon for patients to deal with symptoms for years before finally finding an effective treatment. This is due, in part, to the fact that there are very few lymphedema specialists in the world and lymphedema can be difficult to diagnose for those who don’t have the proper training. So patients are misdiagnosed and offered treatment that doesn’t address the right issue. It’s also not uncommon for patients to receive the correct diagnosis but ineffective treatment options. In either case, it’s incredibly frustrating for the patient.
Getting relief from lymphedema starts with finding the right care. But before you can do that, you need to understand what you’re dealing with.
What is lymphedema and how is it treated?
Lymphedema is a disorder of the lymphatic system that results in a blockage of toxic lymphatic fluid. This blockage causes fluid to drain into the surrounding fatty tissue and the area — typically an arm or leg — swells and becomes incredibly painful. If caught early, conservative therapies and compression sleeves may be used, provided they are worn consistently, to treat lymphedema. But if it isn’t caught early, or if the sleeves aren’t worn regularly, the arm or leg becomes chronically inflamed, and surgery is required to provide more effective relief.
Considerations when searching for lymphedema care
Once you have an accurate lymphedema diagnosis, it’s time to find a treatment center that’s equipped to provide relief. While there are many treatment centers that provide conservative therapies and diet or exercise advice that may help ease some of your pain, surgery is the only way to provide real, measurable results. So it’s important to limit your search to centers with an on-staff surgeon who can perform the specific type of lymphedema surgery you need. You’ll also want to find a place that has the following.
Board-certified plastic surgeon: This is perhaps the most important distinction between a treatment center that can help and one that will be ineffective — or even harmful. The surgeon you’re working with must be board-certified in plastic surgery and a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). Board certification in plastic surgery is difficult to achieve and involves completing a full-time plastic surgery residency and successfully passing a rigorous exam. It’s important to note that a surgeon who is “board certified” is not enough. That simply means that he or she has been certified by an organization. Your surgeon must be board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery to be trusted to perform your surgery safely.
Specialization in microsurgery or super-microsurgery: Lymphedema treatment is a form of microsurgery and/or super-microsurgery that requires high-powered specialized equipment. Be sure to find a surgeon who specializes in this type of surgery and has experience utilizing the appropriate equipment.
Specialization in the right body part: Though lymphedema often affects the arm or leg, it can occur in the head, neck or groin. Treatment for arms and legs versus these other areas will look different, and it’s essential to see a surgeon who specializes in treating the area where you are affected to remain safe and get the best results.
Proven results: One of the best ways to gauge a surgeon’s success rate is to look at their website and social channels for patient testimonials, success stories, and before-and-after photos. Too often, treatment centers are only able to offer marginal results and patients leave feeling disappointed. But if a treatment center boasts a high volume of success stories, it could be a good fit for you as well.
Expert support staff: Finding a board-certified plastic surgeon will be the most important consideration when looking for a treatment center. But they aren’t the only provider you’ll be working with. Over the course of your treatment, you’ll also likely need to see physician assistants, certified lymphedema therapists and you may even need the help of a patient advocate if you’re fighting to get insurance to cover the costs of your surgery. Make sure the surgeon you’re considering has a support staff in place to provide the care you need from start to finish.
Good personality fit: At the end of the day, you need a surgeon you can trust. And while a board certification can go a long way in providing a sense of security, you also need to feel comfortable with the care you’re receiving on a personal level. Make sure the surgeon you meet with takes the time to listen to you and makes you feel heard. Afterall, you know your body best.
A team who can address your specific needs: If you are a healthy adult, it’s likely that all the considerations above will be enough to help you find the right lymphedema treatment center. When conducting research or during your initial consultation, be sure to disclose any medical concerns to ensure the treatment center you’ve chosen is a good fit.
Finding the right care and treatment for your lymphedema can be life changing. Not only will you see improvement, but you’ll be able to lead a more normal life without continuously tending to your affected arm or leg. Appropriate treatment alleviates pain and the need for constant care.
Dr. Jay Granzow is an internationally renowned board-certified plastic surgeon who specializes in lymphedema and lipedema treatment. Patients come from all over the country to seek treatment at the Granzow Lymphedema & Lipedema Center, which has a reputation for delivering real results. Our support staff are available to help you through every step of your treatment plan and we are committed to delivering top quality care for lymphedema and lipedema patients. Contact the experts at Granzow Lymphedema & Lipedema Center to get the relief you deserve.