Surgical Options for Lymphedema
If you’re a breast cancer patient living in the Houston area who is also suffering from lymphedema, you’re probably experiencing a wide range of emotions including fear, depression, anger, and frustration. Every breast cancer patient processes their diagnosis differently, but one thing is absolutely certain – at Fusi and Craig Plastic Surgery we respect our patient’s feelings and work with you to help you make the best decisions based on your unique situation. In addition to receiving a breast cancer diagnosis, you’re also having to endure the pain and discomfort of excess lymph fluid building up in your arm.
You may be self-conscious and embarrassed by the way your body looks which compounds your troubles and is the last thing that a woman with breast cancer – especially one who is undergoing a mastectomy – should have to go through. You may have tried all of the standard lymphedema treatments to no avail. From elevating your arm, exercises, and compression sleeves and garments – which didn’t help you much and might have made you feel even more uncomfortable and frustrated.
If you are still suffering from lymphedema despite having tried traditional methods designed to reduce it, you may be considering experimental surgery for lymphedema. Performed by only a select few plastic surgeons throughout the US, Houston doctors Dr. Fusi & Dr. Craig are qualified lymphedema surgeons who have both studied lymphedema surgeries extensively and are pleased to offer them through their Houston practice.
What Lymphedema Surgery Options are Available to Me?
There are three experimental surgical options for treating lymphedema: liposuction, lymph node transfer (or transplant) and lymphovenous anastomoses.
If you choose to have liposuction performed to treat your lymphedema, you should be aware that it is a much different procedure than a cosmetic liposuction treatment. In fact, a regular plastic surgeon cannot perform liposuction on a lymphedema patient; only a skilled lymphedema surgeon is properly trained to do so.
When liposuction is performed to treat lymphedema, the goal is to reduce the painful swelling associated with the condition, particularly those lymphedema patients who have non-pitting lymphedema, or a case of lymphedema in which the arm doesn’t indent when a finger is depressed on it. Lymphedema surgeons like Houston’s Dr. Fusi & Dr. Craig perform liposuction because it’s been discovered that lymphedema patients with severe swelling also have an excess amount of fatty tissue in their arms. By using liposuction to remove this excess fat, your lymphedema surgeon can reduce the volume of the arm so that the swelling that remains can be treated with standard lymphedema treatment measures such as the bandages and compression garments mentioned above.
Another type of surgical procedure that’s performed by lymphedema surgeons is called a lymph node transfer, or transplant. With this procedure, microsurgery is used to remove a healthy lymph node from an unaffected area of your body – typically your groin or abdomen. That healthy lymph node is then transferred or transplanted by your Houston lymphedema surgeon to your affected arm. Microsurgery techniques are used to transfer, or transplant the healthy lymph node and connect it to a new blood supply. The goal of this lymphedema surgery is to provide lymphedema patients with a healthy lymph node in their affected arm to promote normal lymph fluid flow throughout the extremity.
The final procedure that your Houston lymphedema surgeon may perform is called lymphovenous anastomoses. With this highly advanced procedure where your lymphedema surgeon will use microsurgery techniques to create bridges between the lymphatic vessels and veins. The goal of lymphovenous anastomoses is to provide the excess lymph fluid building up in your arm with a new route for leaving the affected arm.
What Are the Results of Lymphedema Surgery?
Initially, Houston area lymphedema patients will experience some pain and discomfort for a few weeks following surgery, and you may have pain medication prescribed to you by Dr. Fusi and Dr. Craig to help with pain management. Patients who undergo lymphedema surgery can experience substantial improvement to the affected arm after a few months of recovery. Patients should begin to notice a decrease in the size and volume of the limb, and they also report feeling less pain and discomfort. For those who have been living with the uncomfortable heaviness associated with lymphedema, it is a relief to have their arm feel lighter and softer.
Your results may vary, being that this is an experimental treatment.
Quality of Life
In the medical community and beyond you often hear the term “QOL,” which stands for “Quality Of Life.” Breast cancer patients in the Houston area that are trying to cope with the additional pain as well as all of the difficulties that make living with lymphedema so incredibly hard know what it feels like to lose the fundamental pleasures of everyday living. You may long for the days when you didn’t have to worry about simple things like what shirts would fit you, or just being able to go to the grocery store – situations that you once considered mundane or inconsequential. Lymphedema surgery offers hope to patients that have already been through so much. The hope that they can regain their mobility and restore their quality of life.
Surgeons Dedicated to Serving the Community
Beyond being gifted surgeons, Dr. Fusi and Dr. Craig bring kindness, empathy, and compassion into every interaction with each uniquely different patient they have the opportunity to care for. Character traits such as these combined with their expertise as surgeons are what sets these two exemplary doctors apart from the rest. Dr. Fusi and Dr. Craig have devoted their lives to improving the quality of life for their Houston area patients because they’re as passionate about helping people as they are about their profession. The city of Houston Texas is unlike anyplace in America, and Dr. Fusi and Dr. Craig are proud to be able to offer their skills to the citizens who call Houston home.
Is Lymphedema Surgery Right for Me?
Lymphedema surgery is typically only indicated for breast cancer patients with severe lymphedema. If you think you fall into this category, please take this opportunity to learn more about this cutting-edge surgery and how it might be right for you. Taking the time to visit Dr. Fusi & Dr. Craig in their Houston office for a lymphedema surgery consultation and evaluation is the first step to restoring your self-esteem and having the quality of life that you deserve.
We welcome you to give us a call at (713) 346-9909. Our professional and well-trained staff are here to help you schedule an appointment.