Using water-jet assisted liposuction and conservative therapies to treat lipedema 

Lipedema is a painful, chronic pathologic fat disorder, wherein a person’s fat cells are programmed incorrectly. Fat distributes differently in the arms and legs than in other parts of the body, so a person suffering from lipedema experiences significant swelling in the arms or legs or other parts of the torso. Because these improperly programmed fat cells can’t communicate in a normal way, they continue to grow regardless of what the patient does; no amount of exercise or diet will cause the swelling in the arms and legs to go down. And this swelling can cause intense pain and decrease in mobility — both of which have a significant impact on a patient’s quality of life.  

The good news is lipedema-affected fat cells can be removed from a patient’s body with water-jet-assisted liposuction, reducing swelling and bringing relief to the patient. 

What is water-jet assisted liposuction?

The only true treatment for lipedema is water-jet assisted liposuction. This surgery is performed by a board-certified plastic surgeon who has experience and training in this particular type of liposuction. During the treatment, a small tube, or cannula, is inserted into the affected area and a stream of water is used to break up and remove the affected lipedema fat cells. 

Most patients need one to three surgeries to fully remove the affected fats and proteins depending on the patient’s body type, the amount of fat that needs to be removed, what stage the lipedema is in, what type of anesthesia is being used and where the surgery is performed. 

If the surgery is being performed in a hospital setting and general anesthesia is being used, for example, the surgeon should be able to remove more fat cells during each surgery, potentially reducing the total number of surgeries required.. But if the patient prefers to use local anesthesia or opts to have the surgery done in a surgical center, more treatments may be needed to remove the necessary fat cells. During your initial meeting with your surgeon, he or she should ask you for your preferences and come to the table with a surgical plan. 


What’s the difference between water-jet assisted liposuction and cosmetic liposuction? 

The specific type of water-jet assisted liposuction used to treat lipedema patients is quite different from cosmetic liposuction. It’s a complex, reconstructive procedure that specifically targets pathologic fat cells. The instruments and techniques used for each procedure are different, as are the surgeons who perform each. 

For instance, many cosmetic plastic surgeons aren’t trained to perform water-jet assisted liposuction for lipedema. Cosmetic liposuction, which often uses lasers, can be too aggressive and painful. It can even cause lymphedema to develop in the patient, so it’s vital that patients find a surgeon specially trained in lipedema surgery.

Surgeons who are experienced in water-jet assisted liposuction also understand how to carefully target the affected fat cells. By targeting and removing these cells, patients are less likely to have a resurgence of the disease. If the surgeon is removing general fat cells, the patient may initially look slimmer, but too many pathologic fat cells will be left, increasing the patient’s chances of experiencing a second wave of lipedema.  


How effective is water-jet assisted liposuction? 

Fortunately, water-jet assisted liposuction permanently removes pathologic fat cells. This results in an increased range of motion, reduced volume and weight, significant pain relief for patients, and an overall improved quality of life. 

Though water-jet assisted liposuction can be incredibly effective for most lipedema patients, it may be impossible to remove every affected fat cell. So it is possible that remaining fat cells could react to fluctuations in hormones again in the future. Lipedema patients, particularly young lipedema patients, are at risk of developing the condition again.  


Who is eligible for water-jet assisted liposuction?

Fortunately, most lipedema patients are eligible for water-jet assisted liposuction provided they weigh less than 300 pounds. Though it has been historically difficult to get insurance coverage for this type of surgery, there have been great strides in the last few years as the medical community learns more about this disease and the importance of surgical intervention. As researchers and medical professionals learn and publish more about lipedema, more insurance carriers are offering coverage for treatment, including water-jet assisted liposuction.

For patients struggling to attain coverage, the patient advocates at the Granzow Lymphedema & Lipedema Center offer services to assist its patients to overturn authorization denials and gain insurance coverage for their surgery.


How are conservative therapies used to treat lipedema?

There are many certified lipedema therapists who will attempt to treat lipedema with conservative therapies like compression garments, manual lymphatic drainage massage, vibration plates or other exercises. While these therapies may provide some pain relief or a temporary reduction in swelling, they cannot permanently treat lipedema. And because many lipedema patients experience pain when the affected area is touched, not all patients can withstand massages or compression garments. It is often recommended, however, to see a physical therapist or use conservative therapies before and after surgery to manage pain and increase mobility. 

The team at the Granzow Lymphedema & Lipedema Center specialize in water-jet-assisted liposuction treatment for lipedema. Our goal is to offer relief for patients who have been suffering for years and are ready for a permanent change. 

If you suffer from lipedema, reach out to the experts at Granzow Lymphedema & Lipedema Center to get the relief you deserve.