In a review of 250 cases of lymphedema of the lower extremity, 9 patients were noted to share unique similarities in their history and physical findings. Although these patients had mild swelling in their pretibial areas and were all referred with a diagnosis of lymphedema of the legs, their findings differed significantly from the usual patient with either congenital or acquired lymphedema. Notably, the lower extremity swelling was always bilateral and symmetrical in nature and never involved the feet. Skin changes characteristic of lymphedema were not found, and consistent fat pads were present anterior to the lateral malleoli in each patient. These findings are representative of a clinical entity known as lipedema, which is distinct from lymphedema and for which treatment may be different.
©1994American Society of Plastic Surgeons