Facts about Lymphedema

Lymphedema is characterized by the excess accumulation of fluid, fat, and protein in an area of the body. Most commonly, Lymphedema can occur after the treatment of cancer of the breast or other areas with surgery and/or radiation therapy. In some cases, the condition may be congenital, or occur spontaneously. Lymphedema has different presentations that require different types of surgical and non-surgical treatment. There is no single method of treatment to address all types of Lymphedema.

Conservative therapy has been the mainstay of Lymphedema treatment. All patients with Lymphedema should be seen by an experienced therapist specifically trained in Lymphedema therapy.

Microsurgery is used by specialized surgeons to manipulate tiny blood and Lymphatic vessels. Few plastic surgeons routinely perform advanced microsurgery, and only a small handful have been trained to treat Lymphedema.

Three modern surgical methods exist to effectively treat Lymphedema. These include Vascularized Lymph Node Transfer (VLNT), Lymphaticovenous Anastomosis (LVA) and Suction-Assisted Protein Lipectomy (SAPL). Dr. Granzow is trained in all three of these methods. It is important to note that these surgical procedures are not related to the previously ineffective Lymphatic debulking procedures of the past.

In Lymphedema-affected extremities that are early in their presentation and still contain significant amounts of fluid, drainage can be accomplished by means of VLNT and LVA. In more advanced cases of Lymphedema, Lymphatic fluid has been replaced by fat and protein. These limbs respond poorly to conservative compression therapy and may be soft from fat or firm from protein and fibrosis. Suction-Assisted Protein Lipectomy is the best method used to such cases.

During your consultation, Dr. Granzow will help you determine which type of edema is present and which procedure will offer the most long-term benefit.