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Surgical Treatments for Lymphedema

Surgery is a treatment option for a very small, selected percentage of the patients who have lymphedema.  Dr. George Landis, is a plastic surgeon in Minneapolis, who performs highly specialized microsurgery both in breast reconstruction and in the surgical treatment of lymphedema

The two categories of surgical intervention that are currently available in the United States, and which Dr. Landis performs, are lymphatic reconstruction and excisional surgeries

Lymphatic Reconstruction

  • Lymph node transplant is surgery in which lymph nodes are moved from one part of the body (usually the abdomen) to the lymphedema affected area. The transplanted lymph node theoretically stimulates the growth of new lymph channels into and out of the transplanted node.
  • Anastamotic reconstruction (Lympatic-venous bypass) attempts to restore lymph flow through a surgical re-joining of the damaged lymph channel either to another lymphatic vessel or to a vein.

Lymphatic surgery has increasingly become a viable option for patients who suffer from lymphedema.  Advances in surgical technique, lymphatic imaging technology, and basic science research have provided surgeons with more sophisticated means of effectively treating lymphedema in patients who otherwise felt there was no hope in reversing their condition.  There have been successful outcomes reported using a variety of techniques including vascularized lymph node transfer, lymphovenous bypass, lymphaticovenular bypass, and liposuction.

Dr. Landis currently performs both vascularized lymph node transfer as well as lymphtic-venous bypass on selected patients.

Excisional Surgeries

  • Debulking is a surgical intervention that removes large excesses of skin and soft tissue overgrowth  occurs as a complication of longstanding lymphedema
  • Liposuction is a specialized adaptation of the procedure that permits the surgeon to remove overgrown fatty tissue that resides under the skin. This can become necessary in lymphedema because of the tendency for fatty overgrowth to commonly occur when lymphedema is chronic. In properly selected patients, the lymphedema limb can be restored to normal size through surgery. The operation is performed under general anesthesia, but is minimally invasive. The surgical technique has been perfected in Europe over the past two decades and now has an extensive documentation of efficacy without complications or untoward outcomes.

Both forms of excisional surgery are performed, for properly selected patients, by Dr. George H. Landis, an expert in reconstructive microsurgical plastic surgery in Minneapolis.  The techniques are generallly reserved for advanced and severe cases of lymphedema.

Lymphatic Surgery in Minneapolis by Dr. George Landis, board-certified plastic surgeon