Lipedema is a life-changing disease that can greatly impact everyday life. Seeking out treatment is a big ordeal, and with each treatment option available there are certain risks that must be reviewed. Liposuction is typically a safe and effective procedure when performed by trained hands and additional precautions are followed. Current technology allows properly trained vascular, cosmetic plastic surgeons to remove the subcutaneous fat tissue safely and greatly reduce the impact lipedema has on your mobility as long as specialized surgical techniques are followed which limit injury to lymphatics. However, as with any surgical procedure, there is always a certain amount of risk involved. While most risks can be reduced, some are a one in a million chance. Recently, a woman in the United Kingdom experienced firsthand how difficult the most severe and rare risks can impact her life even further.

The Story

Jayney Nascimento, an English woman living in England, recently received liposuction treatment for lipedema. She had experienced the condition for 12 years and was self-conscious about how much bigger her legs were than the rest of her body. Like other individuals with lipedema, she sought out liposuction in the hope of being confident enough to wear a bathing suit again. The procedure went smoothly, and no complications were noted.

Jayney returned home immediately following her procedure to relax and recover from the procedure. After a few days, she began to experience coldness in her legs and excruciating pain. Since Jayney believed it was a side effect of the medication, she did not seek out her doctor until she was taken to the hospital by her daughter. Jayney ending up catching necrotizing fasciitis, a common bacterium that can cause serious but rare infections. This bug can spread in a few short hours and can be life threatening if not caught early enough. While Jayney is fortunate enough to not have to amputate her legs, she now has significant scarring all across her legs.

Why It’s Important

Making sure you have a highly trained physician should always be a top priority. Jayney’s condition may have been caused due to an unclean environment for her procedure, a significant injury to an important lymphatic structure or having a poorly trained physician complete the procedure. An individual with lipedema will have increased strain on their lymphatics and are at increased risk for lymphatic injury. Lipedema liposuction requires significant care to not injure lymphatics that only a highly trained individual should be trusted with. Make sure to ask your physician what their experience with lipedema liposuction is and what kind of side effects their patients have experienced in the past. Liposuction always has associated risks, but they can be reduced when you rely on the most trusted individuals in the field.

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What Is Dercum’s Disease?

Dercum’s disease, also known as Adiposis Dolorosa, is a rare condition that is characterized by multiple, painful fatty lipomas (benign, fatty tumors). It occurs in men and women but is more common in post-menopausal women. The lipomas are located primarily in the subcutaneous tissue. They can occur almost anywhere but often occur on the arms near elbow, legs near the knee and the trunk. Unlike ordinary lipomas, there is also pain that can be severe and sometimes debilitating. It is a chronic condition, meaning that it is a long-lasting condition that is often progressive.

Treatment for Dercum’s Disease

Currently there are very few treatments for Dercum’s Disease. The only effective treatments for painful lipomas at present are surgical options such open excision and liposuction. The current treatments, although they can be effective, have drawbacks which limit their use more broadly. Open surgical excision of painful lipomas is unusually incomplete, and it can lead to scarring which has a potential to create more lipomas. Open surgical excision is time consuming if multiple lipomas are removed and it leaves a visible scar. Liposuction can be expensive and is generally not covered by medical insurance. Although Liposuction can treat a larger area at one time, it also takes a good deal of time and does not completely remove all of the lipomas. 

FDA Approval of a New Drug to Treat Dercum’s Disease

A week ago, Raziel Therapeutics received approval of a new drug at this time designated RZL-012 to treat Dercum’s Disease as an orphan drug.