Lymphedema, the build-up of fluid in soft tissues when the lymph system is damaged or blocked, may occur following breast cancer surgery or radiation. This disease can result in painful swelling, intermittent infections, chronic pain and other symptoms. Dr. Elisabeth Potter has received advanced training in the latest surgical treatment techniques for lymphedema.
Contact us online today to learn more about treating lymphedema of the upper extremities. The Institute of Reconstructive Plastic Surgery of Central Texas helps men and women from Austin, Round Rock and throughout Texas.
Lymphedema after Breast Cancer Treatment
Lymphedema following breast cancer treatment may occur for several reasons. Surgical treatment of breast cancer removes tissue and often requires removal of one or more lymph nodes from the armpit. This may cause impaired lymphatic drainage in the arm, breast and chest wall. Additionally, radiation therapy also increases the risk of developing lymphedema.
Surgery to bypass damaged areas of the lymphatic system may help to reduce the severity of lymphedema symptoms or decrease the progression of the disease. Dr. Potter focuses on surgery for the upper extremities – her typical patient develops the disease as a result of breast cancer treatment. People who benefit most are earlier in the course of disease and have surgery in conjunction with ongoing complete decongestive therapy (CDT) in order to manage symptoms, and improve quality of life.
Following surgery, some patients will see a substantial improvement in their symptoms, while others may experience little to no improvement. It is important to recognize that this disease cannot be cured, even through surgery. Surgery may be a useful addition to complete decongestive therapy, and CDT should be resumed about 4 weeks after surgery and continued ongoing for the best results.
Our Approach: Lymphovenous Bypass
While many people suffering from lymphedema have heard about the surgical technique known as Vascularized Lymph Node Transfer, we typically recommend it only for severe cases and only after significant counseling regarding risks and alternatives. These risks will be carefully discussed in detail during a patient’s consultation.
The Lymphovenous Bypass technique uses a special camera known as a Photo Dynamic Eye (PDE) to visualize and characterize a patient’s actual lymphatic drainage pattern and identify sites for improvement. Small incisions are then made at these identified sites and bypasses are performed to link lymphatics to the venous system, allowing a new pattern of lymph drainage.
Lymphovenous Bypass requires “supermicrosurgery” technique, with specialized instruments capable of properly identifying and rerouting areas of the lymphatic system. Surgery generally takes 3 to 5 hours, followed by an overnight hospital stay for observation/antibiotics.
If you are living with lymphedema, we encourage you to contact us online to learn if lymphedema surgery from the Institute of Reconstructive Plastic Surgery of Central Texas can help you lead a better life.