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Surgical Treatment for Lymphedema

Lymphedema occurs when fluid from your lymphatic system builds up in your tissue  and causes severe swelling in the arms or legs. Although it may be present at birth due to improper development of the lymphatic system, lymphedema can be caused by surgery, radiation, infection or trauma.

Most commonly, lymphedema is caused by lymph node dissection and radiation during cancer treatment.

Lymphedema is often treated with occupational therapy. But in severe cases or when patients don't see enough improvement, surgical techniques such as lymphovenous bypass and lymph node transfer can provide relief from lymphedema.

Lymphovenous Bypass

Also called lymphaticovenous anasosmosis (LVA), this procedure reroutes the lymphatic system using minimally invasive microsurgery. The lymphatic channel is connected to a tiny vein, which allows the lymphatic fluid to drain.   

In some breast cancer patients, lymphedema can develop as a result of underarm lymph node removal, also known as axillary lymph node dissection. Our surgeons can perform immediate lymphatic reconstruction at the same time the node is removed to restore the lymph connections in the arm and prevent lymphedema. This is also called lymphatic microsurgical preventive healing approach (LYMPHA). 

Read a news release about this procedure

Lymph Node Transfer

Also called a lymphovenous transplant, this is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure when healthy lymph nodes, usually in the abdomen, are transplanted into the area of the body where the lymphatic channel is obstructed.

Lymphedema Surgery with Breast Reconstruction

When a patient needs lymphedema treatment and breast reconstruction with flaps, the bypass or node transfer can be performed at the same time.

We participate in the Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) program, which provides state-of-the-art care to improve our patients' experience and reduce postoperative complications.

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Locations

La Jolla

 Hillcrest

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