A Single Institution Multi-disciplinary Approach to Power-assisted Liposuction for the Management of Lymphedema

Ann Surg. 2022 Nov 1;276(5):e613-e621. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000004588. Epub 2020 Nov 4.


Objective: To implement and evaluate outcomes from a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary debulking program in the United States.

Summary of background data: Interest in and access to surgical treatment for chronic lymphedema (LE) in the United States have increased in recent years, yet there remains little attention on liposuction, or debulking, as an effective treatment option. In some other countries, debulking is a common procedure for the surgical treatment of LE, is covered by insurance, and has demonstrated excellent, reproducible outcomes. In this study we describe our experience implementing a debulking technique from Sweden in the United States.

Methods: Patients who presented with chronic LE followed a systematic multi-disciplinary work-up. For debulking with power assisted liposuction, the surgical protocol was modeled after that developed by Håkan Brorson. A retrospective review of consecutive patients who underwent debulking at our institution was conducted.

Results: Between December 2017 and January 2020, 39 patients underwent 41 debulking procedures with power assisted liposuction, including 23 upper and 18 lower extremities. Mean patient age was 58 years and 85% of patients had LE secondary to cancer, the majority of which (64%) was breast cancer. Patients experienced excess volume reductions of 116% and 115% in the upper and lower extremities, respectively, at 1 year postoperatively. Overall quality of life (LYMQOL) improved by a mean of 33%. Finally, patients reported a decreased incidence of cellulitis and decreased reliance on conservative therapy modalities postoperatively.

Conclusions: Debulking with power assisted liposuction is an effective treatment for patients with chronic extremity LE. The operation addresses patient goals and improves quality of life, and additionally reduces extremity volumes, infection rates and reliance on outpatient therapy. A comprehensive, multi-disciplinary debulking program can be successfully implemented in the United States healthcare system.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms* / surgery
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lipectomy* / methods
  • Lymphedema* / surgery
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life
  • Retrospective Studies