Unlike the surgeries performed by Dr. Granzow as part of his comprehensive lymphedema treatment system, surgical methods in the past to treat lymphedema have been radical and often ineffective. Deformities caused by such surgeries were at times worse than the Lymphedema issues. The appearance of the arm or leg following the surgery sometimes resembled the wound of an operated burn. Complications were numerous and included necrosis of the transferred skin flaps, recurrence or worsening of the Lymphedema, nerve damage, loss of function and amputation.
The Charles procedure involved removal of the skin and deeper tissue down to muscle and fascia. The resected skin was often used as a skin graft, and sometimes more skin from other, healthy areas was required.
The Thompson procedure was also largely ineffective. It involved saving some of the skin as a skin flap. This flap was thought to contain subdermal lymphatics to “wick” fluid to the deeper lymph channels.