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Lymphedema and Obesity: Is There a Link?

Mehrara, Babak J. M.D.; Greene, Arin K. M.D., M.M.Sc.

Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery: July 2014 - Volume 134 - Issue 1 - p 154e–160e
doi: 10.1097/PRS.0000000000000268
Special Topics
Video Discussion

Summary: Lymphedema is a chronic disorder that, in developed countries, occurs most commonly after lymph node dissection for cancer treatment. Although the pathophysiology of lymphedema is unknown, the disease is characterized histologically by fibrosis and abnormal adipose deposition. Clinical studies have provided evidence that obesity and postoperative weight gain are significant risk factors for the development of lymphedema. In fact, recent studies have shown that extreme obesity can result in markedly impaired lymphatic function and primary lymphedema. The aim of this Special Topic article is to review evidence linking obesity and lymphedema. In addition, the authors review recent studies that have analyzed the cellular mechanisms that may be responsible for this relationship, with a goal of highlighting areas of research that may have significant translational potential.

Video Discussion by Dennis Orgill, M.D., is available online for this article.

New York, N.Y.; and Boston, Mass.

From the Department of Plastic Surgery, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; and the Department of Plastic and Oral Surgery, Lymphedema Program, Boston Children’s Hospital.

Received for publication November 9, 2013; accepted January 17, 2014.

Disclosure: The authors have no financial interest to declare in relation to the content of this article.

A Video Discussion by Dennis Orgill, M.D., accompanies this article. Go to PRSJournal.com and click on “Video Discussion” in the “Videos” tab to watch.

Babak J. Mehrara, M.D., Department of Plastic Surgery, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, 1275 York Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10065, mehrarab@mskcc.org

©2014American Society of Plastic Surgeons