The UK Best Practice Guidelines for the Management of Lipoedema advise that surgical options may be appropriate for some patients with Lipoedema. These include liposuction (to treat the tissue enlargement) and bariatric surgery (to treat obesity). However while both types of surgery may help with symptoms, neither has been shown to cure lipoedema itself and it will remain a long-term condition requiring careful lifestyle management.
Patients considering liposuction should research clinics carefully to ensure they provide adequate standards of care, and to establish that the procedures they offer are appropriate for their individual needs. Patients should also be aware that liposuction procedures are not without risk in the immediate post-operative period and may cause long-term complications (Stutz & Krahl, 2009; Rappich et al 2015), Age, condition of skin and tissues with also impact on results, as too will further weight gain post operatively.
However, overall, liposuction in patients with lipoedema has been found to reduce tissue bulk, pain, bruising, improve mobility, functioning and quality of life (Reich-Schupke et al 2012; Peled & Kappos, 2016).
There is also evidence of longer term benefits of liposuction surgery. For example in a study of 112 patients who had undergone tumescent liposuction between 5 and 11 years previously, positive changes over time were found in seven parameters. These include pain, bruising, oedema (swelling), mobility and quality of life and contributed to an overall improvement (Schmeller et al, 2012; Baumgartner et al; 2016).
Patients with lipoedema considering liposuction should carefully assess their own situation, and be aware that carrying additional weight from non lipoedema fat could effect the complexities and long term results from liposuction. The UK Best Practice Guidelines also recommend that patients undertake non surgical (conservative) treatment for at least six months before surgery.
Pre-operative counselling is also recommended to ensure that each person has a realistic expectation of what can be achieved, understands the procedure and the importance of post operative care (including compression therapy). Post operative pain and swelling is inevitable – and may take several months to resolve. There may be a longer recovery period if such recommendations/information are not taken on board.
More reliable long-term research and evidence is desperately needed by the growing community of lipoedema patients and clinicians, to guide them and help them understand and manage this long term, chronic condition.
Women in dire need denied surgery and treatments
A survey by charity Lipoedema UK highlights that a bleak future could await UK women with a debilitating condition called Lipoedema because life-changing treatments and surgery are not available on the NHS. Many risk their future and that of their family by taking out loans and spending savings to finance private treatments.
Preview results of 2019 Lipoedema UK survey report are available to download here.
Anne Henry, a lipoedema sufferer, presented her story about her problems getting a diagnosis and treatment to the Scottish Parliament Cross Party Group on Women’s Health. Read her story here.
This issue was covered on BBC News on Saturday, 9th February 2019 in a piece that contrasted Anne and another woman who has had liposuction treatment for her lipoedema:
Here is an alternative version of the BBC News report which is also worth a look:
Lipoedema UK also conducted a focus group with patients in June 2018 to explore how patients felt liposuction had impacted on their lipoedema and their life. Download the focus group report.
Lipoedema UK Publication – Practical Guidance for Patients Considering Liposuction as an Option for Managing Lipoedema
This booklet is an essential guide for Lipoedema patients considering liposuction. It is also a reassuring post-operative companion, written from the joint perspective of a highly qualified medical expert and patient with advanced Lipoedema.
In this publication you will learn about:
Treating Lipoedema Post-operative expectations Finding and choosing a surgeon Practicalities to consider for home and family Prepare your surgery suitcase Post–operative do’s and don’ts Common post-operative symptoms Managing Lipoedema after liposuction
And much, much more…
As no two patients are the same, anyone contemplating liposuction is advised to research competent surgeons thoroughly, and evaluate the best methods and choices available to them.
Post-operative recovery may require additional treatment and support, so this needs to be factored into decision-making, not least when it comes to costs. Managing expectations is also a vital part of the recovery process.
The following are published reports on liposuction for lipoedema patients: