Lymphedema complications: Cellulitis, Lymphangitis, elephantiasis and lymphangiosarcoma

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There are three main complications of lymphedema:

1. Infection - The affected limb is vulnerable to infection, most notably cellulitis and lymphangitis. Any portal of infection can lead to cellulitis or lymphangitis, which may require intravenous antibiotics. 

2. Elephantiasis - chronic lymphedema will ultimately lead to fibrosis of tissues, i.e. skin thickening, also known as elephantiasis. Secondary infections can cause ulcer formation and cellulitis.

3. Lymphangiosarcoma - longsanding lymphedema can lead to a rare soft tissue cancer originating in lymphatic tissue, known as lymphangiosarcoma.

 

Article by
Buffalo General Surgeon