Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Surgical options for lymphedema

What are surgical treatment options for lymphedema?

Some patients are at risk for lymphedema, resulting from damaged lymph nodes, following cancer treatment. Our clinicians provide proactive lymphedema management, including physical therapy and early education, to help prevent this condition. However, if you experience symptoms of lymphedema after trying non-surgical therapeutic approaches, you may be a candidate for surgery.

We offer two surgical options to treat lymphedema:

  • Vascularized lymph node transfer surgery: This is an intricate microsurgical procedure used to treat patients with advanced lymphedema affecting the skin tissue in the arms or legs. Our plastic surgeons transfer working lymph nodes from another part of the body, typically the upper groin or lower abdomen, to the damaged site. We then divide the existing blood vessels that supply the nodes and connect them at the site where the lymph nodes are needed. We use reverse lymphatic mapping to reduce the chance of lymphedema occurring in the areas where lymph nodes were harvested.
  • Lymphaticovenular bypass surgery: This surgery is an intricate super-microsurgical procedure used to treat patients with mild to moderate lymphedema. Our plastic surgeons perform the surgery by shunting, or moving, fluid from several dilated lymphatics in the affected limb to adjacent venules (tiny veins) to reduce pressure.

Our surgeons will assess your current health and work with you and your care team to determine the appropriate surgical and non-surgical treatment options for lymphedema.