The special case of lipedema of the upper limbs

case lipedema of the upper limbs
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Lipedema is the uncontrolled growth of fat cells on the lower and upper limbs, and occurs in about 11% of women (#Iam11%). 

Many women with lipedema complain about their lower limbs, but some of them also have discomfort in their upper limbs (arms and sometimes forearms), in this case it is also a lipedema of the upper limbs.

Different types of lipedema :

We distinguish between different types of lipedema depending on the location:

  • Lipoedema type 1: Hips/buttocks
  • Lipoedema type 2: Buttocks to knees (included)
  • Lipoedema type 3: Buttocks to ankles (included)
  • Lipedema type 4: Arms + lower limbs
  • Lipedema type 5: Calves only
lipedema of the upper limbs

Many women with lipedema complain about their lower limbs, but a certain number of them also have discomfort in their upper limbs (arms and sometimes forearms).

The symptoms of lipedema in the upper limbs are similar to those in the lower limbs: pain, a feeling of heaviness, spontaneous bruising, and reduced movement. Women also complain of difficulties in dressing. 

Surgical treatment of lipedema of the upper limbs:

In the case of a person affected by lower and upper limbs, Dr. Nicolas Zwillinger generally proposes a surgical treatment by WAL liposuccion (Water-Assisted-Liposuction) in three stages, with a minimum of 3 months between each intervention.

  • The lower part of the lower limbs
  • The upper part of the lower limbs
  • The upper limbs

It is often advised to start with the lower body and then gradually work up to the upper limbs, but the patient’s wishes come first and if the upper limbs are the most troublesome and/or painful area of the body, it is possible to start with this procedure.

The upper limb procedure is performed in the same way as the lower limb procedure, although it is not possible to use spinal anaesthesia in this case.

The operation lasts between 1 and 2 hours depending on the stage of the lipedema and the volume of fat to be removed.

Post-operative WAL liposuccion of the upper limbs:

The post-operative period is similar to that of the lower limb surgery: there will be some discharge from the suction points for 2 to 5 days, as well as oedema in the suctioned areas, which may also extend to the hands and fingers.

Post-operative support must be worn in this area. We recommend wearing compression sleeves (day and night for 15 days, then day or night for 15 days).

Post-operative pain is generally present for a shorter period than for the lower limbs, WAL liposuccion of the upper limbs does not cause difficulty in walking and the post-operative period is therefore facilitated. However, it is difficult to return to work for 10 to 15 days.

Following this upper limb surgery, the results are visible as soon as the post-operative oedema subsides, i.e. the results start two to three weeks after the operation, but the final results are visible 6 months after the operation.

We invite you to consult the testimony of a patient operated on by Dr Nicolas Zwillinger by WAL liposuccion of the upper limbs.

In some cases, an excess of skin associated with lipedema of the upper limbs can be observed, an arm lift can then be associated with the WAL liposuction procedure. The need to add the arm lift is determined by the surgeon during the first consultation, particularly during palpation of the affected areas.

In conclusion, it is not common for lipedema to affect the arms in women, but it should not be neglected, as the symptoms can be very disabling and cause daily discomfort. There is a solution: WAL liposuction, the same technique as for the surgical treatment of the lower limbs.

We invite you to make an appointment with Dr. Nicolas Zwillinger in order to determine whether your upper or lower limbs are affected by lipedema.

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