American Society of Plastic Surgeons
For Medical Professionals

Lymphedema Treatment

Surgical Options

Lymphedema is a condition characterized by painful swelling in the extremities, which can be addressed with surgical treatment options.

What are the risks of lymphedema surgery?

The decision to have lymphedema surgery is personal and deserves an informed conversation with an experienced plastic surgeon. You'll have to decide if the benefits will achieve your goals and if the risks and potential complications are acceptable.

Your plastic surgeon and/or staff will explain in detail the risks associated with surgery. You will be asked to sign consent forms to ensure that you fully understand the procedures you will undergo and any risks or potential complications.

The possible risks of lymphedema surgery depend on the type of procedure. These include, but are not limited to, bleeding, infection, fluid collection, poor healing of incisions and anesthesia risks. You should also know that:

  • Flap surgery (vascularized lymph node transfer) includes the risk of partial or complete loss of the flap and a loss of sensation at both the donor and reconstruction site.
  • A rare complication of vascularized lymph node transfer is donor site lymphedema caused by damage to the donor site lymph nodes. Techniques such as reverse lymphatic mapping are now used to minimize this risk.

Where will my surgery be performed?

Surgery for lymphedema is most often performed in a hospital setting, possibly including a short hospital stay, and your doctor will likely use general anesthesia.

These decisions will be based on the requirements of your specific procedure and in consideration of your preferences and your doctor's best judgment.


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