Will Liposuction Help or Aggravate Upper Arm Lymphedema?

thank you, LA.

Doctor Answers 6

Liposuction and lymphedema

Thanks for the question -

Lymphedema can significantly increase complications from liposuction and liposuction doesn't typically produce long term improvements.

Treatment for lymphedema can include compression garments and lymphatic massage. Surgical treatments for lymphedema have been somewhat disappointing. Part of the solution to your issue may depend on the cause of your lymphedema. Post-surgical lymphedema (from a lymph node dissection for example) has different implications than lymphedema from other causes.

I hope this helps.

San Francisco Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 49 reviews

This is not a good idea

20 years ago, a plastic surgeon I was training with did studies on the treatment of lymphedema with liposuction. Early successes were just from fluid removal. The hope was that scar tissue would inhibit the recurrence of the edema but that did not happen. This plus the difficulty fighting infection in the face of lymphedema make liposuction in this setting not a good idea.

Richard P. Rand, MD, FACS
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 67 reviews

Caution with liposuction in lymphedematous arms

This is a tough question. My general inclination is to discourage the use of this technique for this problem. Lymphedematous arms are more prone to infection and poor wound healing due to increased tissue fluids and impaired oxygen diffusion through the tissues. However, I am aware, as no doubtedly you are, that there are reports of improvement with this modality.

If you are considering this, I would highly recommend a specialist who has vast experience in treating patients. At the very least I would seek the services of a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon. I would also consider this in a hospital setting.

Otto Joseph Placik, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 81 reviews

I wouldn't do it.

Lymphedema is different from fat, as you know.  The outflow tracts for draining lymph are not functiong well.  Liposuction will create a lot of swelling, and may well damage more lymph structures.  I see a high potential for complications that may not be able to foresee


Scott E. Kasden, MD, FACS
Dallas Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 101 reviews

If you have true lymphedema, do not have liposuction in that area


Lymphedema is a serious condition and it will only be made worse by having liposuction in the area. Liposuction , just like any other surgery, will lead to swelling and bruising. While it is temporary, the swelling relies on an intact lymphatic system to help remove the swelling. Lymphedema would be a contraindication to liposuction in my practice.

Francisco Canales, MD
Santa Rosa Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 35 reviews

Difficult subject, be careful

It is a very sensitive subject. A fully developed case of lymphedema will not benefit from liposuction. Care must be exercised when performing this in order not to interfere with the delicate lymphatics. Primary lymphedema used to be treated with compression and later liposuction. Conservative treatment is still the most useful procedure for mild and moderate cases. Lymphatic-venous anastomosis did not deliver the desired result. A new free tissue transfer technique pioneered in Asia promised to be helpful.

Hisham Seify, MD, PhD, FACS
Orange County Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 19 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.