Current operative management and therapeutic algorithm of lymphedema in the lower extremities

Savitha Ramachandran, Khong Yik Chew, Bien Keem Tan, Yur Ren Kuo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Lymphedema is defined as the abnormal accumulation of interstitial fluid in subcutaneous tissues resulting from cancer, cancer treatment (surgery and/or radiotherapy), infection, inflammatory disorders, obesity, and hereditary syndromes. Surgical management of lymphedema can be broadly classified into two categories, reductive surgical techniques such as direct excision, suction assisted protein lipectomy (SAPL) or radical reduction with perforator preservation (RRPP); and physiological surgical procedures such as lymphaticovenous anastomosis (LVA) and vascularised lymph node transfer (VLNT). These techniques and their various combinations were evaluated. The results revealed patients with reversible lymphedema (ISL stage I, mild severity) benefit most from physiological procedures (LVA or VLNT) which can reduce the chance of disease progression to the chronic, solid phase. Reductive techniques such as SAPL, RPPP, or direct excision procedures should be reserved for patients with advanced – severe lymphedema (ISL stages II and especially stage III) as the surgical treatment of choice. In this study, current literature on the surgical treatment of lower extremity lymphedema is reviewed and discussed in conjunction with authors’ clinical experiences. An algorithm is presented, based on clinical evidence and experience which aims to provide a structured approach to managing lower limb lymphedema.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-53
Number of pages8
JournalAsian Journal of Surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - 01 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020


  • Lymphaticovenous anastomosis
  • Lymphedema
  • Radical reduction with perforator preservation
  • Suction assisted protein lipectomy
  • Vascularized lymph node transfer


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