Lipedema is a chronic progressive fat disorder that can greatly impact the health and quality of life of the individual with the disease. A few of the symptoms caused by lipedema, like the pain caused by the secondary swelling, can be partially controlled by conservative treatments like medication, compression, manual lymph drainage, and short stretch wraps. Unfortunately, there are several limitations to conservative treatments; they only provide temporary relief for a few of the symptoms of the disease and are not able to address many of the other symptoms. For example, conservative treatments are not able to address the mobility problems that occur as a result of the abnormal accumulation of fat around the knees, hips and thighs. In addition, conservative treatments have little impact on the social and psychological aspect of the disproportionate body shape. Finally, conservative treatment can’t alter the progression of the lipedema.
Until there is a cure, one of the most effective long-term treatments for lipedema is lymphatic sparing liposuction. It is clear that although some patients with lipedema do not suffer from over swelling of the limbs, many have abnormal lymphatic function [Harwood DOI: 10.1046/j], so great care to not cause any harm to lymphatics must be taken. There are several specialized liposuction techniques that have been shown to benefit patients with lipedema. In addition to the technique, chose a surgeon with skill, caution, and experience performing the procedure; all of which have an important influence on the ability to protect lymphatic flow and function.
Micro cannula tumescent liposuction, which is done with great care to spare lymphatic injury, has been shown to significantly improve pain, quality and leg size [Rapprich Liposuction is an Effective Treatment for Lipedema Results of a Study with 25 Patients]. Micro cannula liposuction uses small 2- 4 mm cannulas to suction fat tissue that has been infused with tumescent solution, which swells the fat cells and constricts vessels. This procedure has been shown to produce long lasting improvement. Water Assisted Liposuction [WAL, Body Jet Lipo, and Aqua Shape] has also been shown to offer significant improvement of symptoms, mobility and quality of life. Water Assisted Liposuction uses pressurized tumescent solution to dislodge the fat from surrounding connective tissue and vessels. Theoretically, water assisted liposuction should be even gentler than the tumescent liposuction with small cannula. The best way to evaluate the relative safety and effectiveness of these two techniques would be a head-to-head trial of both options where one technique was used on one leg and the other technique was used on the other leg. Unfortunately, we don’t yet have data from such a trial. What we do know for sure is that traditional liposuction without proper tumescent technique or special care of the lymphatics can cause lymphatic damage and worsen lipedema and its symptoms. [Hoffman Plast Reconstr Surg. 2004 Feb;113(2):718-24; discussion 725-6].
At Laser Lipo and Vein Center we use both Body Jet or Water Assisted Liposuction and Micro cannula tumescent liposuction to achieve the safest and gentlest results.
Liposuction treatment is not for everyone with Lipedema because not everyone is a good candidate for a liposuction procedure. Liposuction is generally safe in healthy individuals, but can have risks. In the short-term the swelling in the limbs after liposuction will get worse before it gets better. Most patients experience significant improvement for many or all of their symptoms, but the results can vary. Compression garments for the peri-operative period are hard to find and often must be custom fit. Lipedema is a fat disorder whose treatments should be covered by medical insurance; however, only a minority of medical insurance companies cover a portion of – or all the cost of liposuction for the treatment of Lipedema. Finally, the recovery from Liposuction for lipedema patients is bit longer than recovery from Liposuction for cosmetic reasons.