Lymphedema is generally incurable, although there are various therapies that could help to ease the discomfort. Lymphoedema surgery is one treatment method that could be beneficial to some lymphedema patients. Generally, these surgical techniques meant stripping the fluid-filled areas located under the skin. Some surgeries also involved the creation of a channel connecting the venous system and the lymphatic system to drain the excess fluids.
The idea of performing a micro-vascular surgery may sound appealing. Technically, it is just making a channel linking the vascular system to the lymphatic system to drain extra fluids. In reality though, this is a very difficult procedure and its effectiveness has not been proven. Besides, lymphedema patients have a delicate state of health and an invasive lymphedema surgery may in fact worsen the condition further. Even otherwise, lymphedema patients have various other health-related issues to cope with.
Recent progress in surgical procedures involves finding a way around the lymphatic system to draw out the excess lymphatic fluids to reduce swelling. This procedure is called lymphaticovenular bypass and is carried out under general anesthesia. Surgery may take anything between two to four hours while the patient may be allowed to go home within 24 hours. In this lymphoedema surgery, two to five small incisions are made on the arm or the leg to direct the fluid to the small veins to encourage drainage and relieve the swelling.
Lymphaticovenular bypass may be beneficial to patients who have been suffering from lymphedema for only a short while. Some patients may respond to the surgery while others may find it ineffective. Even though there may be an improvement of the condition after surgery, regular use of compression garments, bandaging and exercise is a must. Skin care is also essential. These therapies can be restarted four weeks after the lymphoedema surgery.
Lately, lymphoedema surgeries include liposuction, especially for cancer patients experiencing lymphedema. Liposuction can take care of stubborn swellings for breast cancer survivors. However, this surgical procedure can cause extensive scarring and the effectiveness may be short-lived, with the problem resurfacing in later years. Again, this is a surgical procedure that might cause complications rather than any improvement for the patient. A relatively modern development for the treatment of lymphedema is lymphatic transplant.
People who suffer from lymphedema are forever trying out newer means of treatment so as to ease the debilitating condition. Even though the combined therapy of massage, manual lymph drainage, compression bandaging and exercise is known to be effective, people want to try out lymphoedema surgery in the hope of lasting improvement. Some of these surgical procedures are very expensive and Medicare does not cover the expense. Yet, there are some insurance companies that approve lymphedema surgeries and the cost may be reimbursed to the patient.