Surgical Options Techniques & Facts
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
Lipoedema UK’s 2019 survey highlights how, despite the drastic improvement in quality of life (QOL) and mobility, many women with lipoedema are forced to self fund their own treatments. Many take out loans, spend family savings or cash in pensions because treatments and surgery are not available on the NHS or covered by private health insurance.
ABOVE: 30 year old UK patient, diagnosed by a leading UK consultant and told
that her condition would deteriorate to the point that she would need to use a
wheelchair within 15 years. Despite her being accepted as an ideal candidate for
NHS surgery, NHS funding was denied. Her family fund-raised the £15,000 needed
for 3 surgeries in Germany. She now leads a normal life, no longer needs pain
medication, and is successfully managing her lipoedema with compression
garments as her only NHS support. Top photos immediately before first surgery
(age 30), bottom photos 12 months later after third surgery (age 31)
To download the full Lipoedema UK’s 2019 survey report click here.
BBC 1 News report on Lipoedema – Saturday, 9th February 2019
BBC 1 News contrasted Anne’s story along with that of Kate’s, who having seen her mother’s long struggle with lipoedema, opted to self fund liposuction surgery for her own lipoedema.
BBC 1 News report version 2 featuring Dr Kristaina Gordon from St Georges Hospital, London which was also aired on Saturday 9th January 2019:
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
Only £6 (plus P&P)
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:
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…