Lymphedema and Kaposi sarcoma: A narrative review

J Med Vasc. 2023 Nov-Dec;48(5-6):181-187. doi: 10.1016/j.jdmv.2023.10.007. Epub 2023 Nov 8.


Background: Kaposi sarcoma (KS), due to HHV-8 infection is classified in 4 subtypes: epidemic, endemic, HIV-related and iatrogenic essentially after organ transplant. Lymphedema is a complication of KS. We reviewed the interactions between HHV-8 infection and lymphedema according an analysis of the literature.

Main body: HHV-8 can infect different types of cells, among them a privileged tropism for lymphatic endothelial cells. It induces multi-centric endothelial proliferation leading to the occlusion of lymphatic vascular lumen. Lymphatic obstruction progressively lead to the blockage of lymphatic drainage, lymph stasis and lymphedema. Lymphedema mostly involved the lower limb affected by KS. It can then develop simultaneously or after the appearance of KS lesions but also be the first sign of KS, a long time before KS skin lesion onset. Lymphedema diagnosis is clinical and lymphoscintigraphy can confirm it if necessary. Lymphedema may be associated with active lesions of KS or non-evolutive, with only cicatricial lesions. KS should be treated according to the KS subtype, aggressive form, with local or systemic treatments associating with causal treatment, such as HIV infection or reducing immuno-suppressive drugs in transplant patients. In most of the cases, KS treatment may slightly reduce (or not) lymphedema volume which remains a chronic disease. Lymphedema management should be associated in order to reduce the volume and then stabilizing it. Low-stretch bandage, elastic garments and skin care are the cornerstone of treatment.

Conclusion: Lymphedema is a frequent complication of KS, and may reveal KS or occurs throughout its course. Association of KS and lymphedema must be known because lymphedema is a chronic disease affecting the quality of life. Beyond the treatment of KS, its management must be specific including a long follow-up to optimize the patient's observance required to maintain the best lymphedema control.

Keywords: Kaposi sarcoma; Lymphedema.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Endothelial Cells
  • HIV Infections*
  • Humans
  • Lymphedema* / etiology
  • Lymphedema* / therapy
  • Quality of Life
  • Sarcoma, Kaposi* / diagnosis
  • Sarcoma, Kaposi* / etiology
  • Sarcoma, Kaposi* / therapy