Lipedema is an underrecognized condition of abnormal fat accumulation in women that affects an estimated 11% of the population. It’s most commonly seen in the legs and thighs but can also affect the hips and arms.
This type of procedure might be right for you if you've ever said:
“I can’t fit in boots and I hate my cankles.”
“I've never liked the way I look in skirts.”
“I’ve always been big on the bottom.”
Lipedema usually begins to accumulate in the early teenage years and gets worse over time as people tend to gain more weight. Ladies may notice when they’re younger that they have bigger legs and calves that get worse as they gain more weight. Abnormal accumulation of fat becomes very obvious often when those same people lose weight through exercise or bariatric surgery. Despite the weight loss, patients with lipedema tend to keep the fat in the affected areas even though they globally lose fat. This results in someone with a skinny face and torso, but extremely wide hips and legs with fat that refuses to go away.
Since most doctors still don’t understand lipedema they may confuse it with “lymphedema,” which is a completely different condition that can be caused by a host of other things. While lymphedema affects the feet and can be on one side, lipedema is a bilateral condition that always affects both sides. If we’re talking about lipedema of the legs, the feet will be uninvolved.
Aside from the excess fatty tissue, patients with lipedema also have trouble with the aching of the affected areas as well as tenderness. Easy bruising results from small bumps into objects or from pets jumping on their owners.
Dr. Elston has extensive experience in diagnosing and treating lipedema patients with liposuction. This technique removes the fat and it won’t come back without a significant amount of weight gain. This can be life-changing for many women, particularly when they don’t even realize it’s something that can be taken care of.
The surgery to remove fat from lipedema is similar to traditional liposuction. The affected area with excess fatty tissue is numbed and liposuction is performed. This can usually be performed in the clinic for early stages, but more severe cases need to be done in the operating room with an anesthesiologist to monitor your blood pressure and fluid status since up to 5 liters of fatty tissue can be removed in a single session. Some patients will need multiple sessions to get rid of all the affected fat, but it’s not uncommon to plan for multiple stages and only require one because you feel so much better after the first. Most patients notice a difference on the night of surgery that they feel significantly better with less heaviness and pain from the excess fat despite the soreness from liposuction itself.