Background: Lipoedema is a painful disease in women with circumscribed increased subcutaneous fatty tissue, oedema, pain and bruising. Whereas conservative methods with combined decongestive therapy (manual lymphatic drainage, compression garments) have been well established over the past 50years, surgical therapy with tumescent liposuction has only been used for about 10years and long-term results are unknown.
Objectives: To determine the efficacy of liposuction concerning appearance (body shape) and associated complaints after a long-term period.
Methods: A total of 164 patients who had undergone conservative therapy over a period of years, were treated by liposuction under tumescent local anaesthesia with vibrating microcannulas. In a monocentric study, 112 could be re-evaluated with a standardized questionnaire after a mean of 3years and 8months (range 1year and 1month to 7years and 4months) following the initial surgery and a mean of 2years and 11months (8months to 6years and 10months) following the last surgery.
Results: All patients showed a distinct reduction of subcutaneous fatty tissue (average 9846mL per person) with improvement of shape and normalization of body proportions. Additionally, they reported either a marked improvement or a complete disappearance of spontaneous pain, sensitivity to pressure, oedema, bruising, restriction of movement and cosmetic impairment, resulting in a tremendous increase in quality of life; all these complaints were reduced significantly (P<0·001). Patients with lipoedema stage II and III showed better improvement compared with patients with stage I. Physical decongestive therapy could be either omitted (22·4% of cases) or continued to a much lower degree. No serious complications (wound infection rate 1·4%, bleeding rate 0·3%) were observed following surgery.
Conclusions: Tumescent liposuction is a highly effective treatment for lipoedema with good morphological and functional long-term results.
© 2011 The Authors. BJD © 2011 British Association of Dermatologists.