Liposuction and Controlled Compression Therapy in the Treatment of Arm Lymphedema following Breast Cancer

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Liposuction and controlled compression therapy in the treatment of arm lymphedema following breast cancer

About one-third of all women treated for breast cancer develop arm lymphedema. The cancer itself is a worry, but the swollen and heavy arm is an additional handicap for the patients, both physical and psychosocial. Previous surgical and conservative treatments have not always given satisfactory and permanent results, conceivably because lymphedema causes hypertrophy of the subcutaneous adipose tissue. From this point of view, liposuction (LS) combined with Controlled Compression Therapy (CCT) is an interesting approach as the hypertrophied adipose tissue is effectively removed and the outcome sustained by wearing a compression garment. Altogether 51 women participated in the present investigations. All, except one had received radiotherapy after the breast cancer operation which included the excision of axillary lymphnodes in all cases. Thirty-six patients were treated with LS and postoperative CCT, whereas 15 received CCT only. Pre- and postoperative arm edema volumes were measured using water displacement technique. Skin blood flow was recorded using laser Doppler imaging. Lymph transport in the arm was assessed with indirect lymphoscintigraphy. Rage of motion in the shoulder joint was measured using a protractor. Effects on quality of life were estimated using the Visual Analogue Scale, Nottingham Health Profile, Psychological General Well-Being index, and the Hospital Anxiety Depression scale. Results were monitored for up to one year after treatment. LS+CCT reduced the arm edema volume completely, compared with a 50% decrease following CCT alone. The use of a compression garment after liposuction is necessary to maintain the normalized arm volume. LS+CCT did not affect the already impaired lymph transport; it merely increased skin microcirculation. A reduced incidence of cellulitis was noted. The treatment improved range of motion in the shoulder joint and patients' quality of life, particularly qualities directly related to the volume reduction and thereby qualities associated with everyday activities. As could be expected from the volume measurements, the more favorable outcomes were recorded mostly in the LS+CCT group.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Surgery
  • Svensson, Henry, Supervisor
Award date1998 Nov 14
Print ISBNs91-628-3206-9
Publication statusPublished - 1998

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 1998-11-14
Time: 10:15
Place: Lecture Hall, Entrance 35, Malmö University Hospital, Malmö, Sweden

External reviewer(s)

Name: Witte, Charles L.
Title: Professor, MD
Affiliation: Department of Surgery, University of Arizona College of Medicine, Tucson, Arizona, USA


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Surgery


  • quality of life
  • Surgery
  • orthopaedics
  • traumatology
  • ortopedi
  • Kirurgi
  • traumatologi
  • arm lymphedema
  • arm lymphoedema
  • Psychological General Well-Being index
  • Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale
  • shoulder mobility
  • Nottingham Health Profile
  • VAS
  • lymphoscintigraphy
  • laser Doppler imaging
  • skin blood flow
  • controlled compression therapy
  • breast cancer
  • liposuction


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