Lymphedema can present ongoing concerns for a person. In many cases, surgery eventually becomes an option to explore. Modern lymphedema procedures are generally considered very safe, whereas surgical techniques of the past were relatively unsuccessful and risky. This is because older procedures were ablative, meaning that they removed large amounts of skin and deep tissue. The extensive removal of tissue sometimes led to significant problems, such as disfigurement.
That Was Then, This is Now.
Today, lymphedema surgeries are much more conservative. They are also safer and more effective. Techniques that lymphedema specialists often use include:
- Vascularized lymph node transfer (VLNT)
- Lymphaticovenous anastomosis (LVA)
- Suction assisted protein lipectomy (SAPL)
Both LVA and SAPL surgeries are performed through very small incisions. The LVA procedure helps to reduce swelling and the feeling of heaviness a person often feels. The SAPL procedure removes the solid portion of the volume created by lymphedema in an affected arm or leg.
Lymphaticovenous anastomosis is also referred to as lymph node bypass. In this microsurgery procedure, Dr. Patel connects blocked lymphatic channels in the affected arm or leg to veins in the surrounding area. These new connections are tiny, measuring from 0.1 mm to 0.9 mm in diameter. The newly connected vessels are secured with superfine sutures that are comparable to a single strand of hair. After LVA surgery, the patient’s excess lymph drains back into the circulatory system through its new venous pathways.
Vascularized Lymph Node Transfer (VLNT)
In a lymph node transfer, Dr. Patel transplants a lymph node from another part of the body to the affected area, allowing the body regenerate lymphatic drainage pathways naturally. According to medical literature, the risk of donor site related issues is very low for patients who undergo lymph node transfer.
Discussing Surgical Options
We understand that it is a big decision to consider lymphedema surgery and that many people do not do so right away. The process of redirecting lymph drainage can be intricate and is best performed by a surgeon who has been trained in microsurgical techniques. Lymphedema surgeries are one of Dr. Patel’s specialties as a board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon who has dedicated his career to helping patients rebuild after traumatic injury, cancer, or other disease processes.