Lymphedema Surgery Options at PRMA Plastic Surgery

By: Courtney Floyd

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What is Lymphedema?

In its simplest form, lymphedema is a chronic condition where excess fluid collects in the body causing swelling. Most commonly, lymphedema occurs in the arms or legs.

Patients are at a high risk for lymphedema if they have had lymph nodes removed from the under arm during breast cancer surgery. The risk is also increased following radiation treatment. Common symptoms of lymphedema include heaviness in the arm, swelling in the hand or arm, dull pain in the affected arm, or decreased of range of motion.

Although lymphedema is a complication related to breast cancer surgery, it can present in patients years after their initial surgery. For high risk patients, it is important to be evaluated by a lymphedema therapist early to help prevent lymphedema.


Surgical Treatment Options

At PRMA Plastic Surgery we offer two surgical treatment options for lymphedema of the upper extremity.

The first is Vascularized Lymph Node Transfer surgery. This procedure involves transplanting healthy lymph nodes from another part of the body (most commonly the groin) to the underarm. These lymph nodes can be transplanted to the armpit at the same time as DIEP flap breast reconstruction, or as a stand-alone procedure. Both methods can permanently reduce or even eliminate lymphedema in some cases.

The second is Lymphaticovenous Anastomosis (LVA). LVA is one of the newest methods used to treat lymphedema. LVA’s require specialized training as well as special instruments. During the procedure lymphatic channels are connected to nearby veins under a microscope. By altering the route for lymphatic fluid to return to the heart, lymphedema can be improved.

Costs

It is important for patients to know very few insurance providers cover this procedure and patients may be responsible for all surgeon, hospital and anesthesia fees. At PRMA, we verify insurance coverage and obtain authorization prior to surgery so patients can be informed of their cost estimates up front.

For easy financing options, Care Credit is available. Care Credit is a healthcare credit card designed for your health, and wellness needs. It's a way to pay for the costs of many treatments and procedures and allows you to make convenient monthly payments.

Although there is no cure for lymphedema, treatment can significantly improve symptoms and improve quality of life!

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