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Severe Cheek and Lower Eyelid Lymphedema After Resection of Oropharyngeal Tumor and Radiation

Silverman, Adam T. MD, MS; Hoffman, Ryan MD; Cohen, Mimis MD, FACS; Garza, Rebecca BS

Journal of Craniofacial Surgery: March 2010 - Volume 21 - Issue 2 - p 598-601
doi: 10.1097/SCS.0b013e3181d08c90
Brief Clinical Studies

Facial lymphedema, a rare condition with poorly understood pathogenesis, is commonly associated with previous infection, radiation therapy, local tumor growth, or previous surgery in the head and neck region. Few cases of isolated facial lymphedema have been reported in the literature. Surgical excision has emerged as the mainstay of therapy in such cases, although the long-term efficacy and recurrence rate after excision remain unknown. We present a unique case of a patient with severe unilateral facial lymphedema, which manifested many years after extirpation of a floor-of-the-mouth squamous cell carcinoma, bilateral supraomohyoid neck dissections, and radiation therapy. The massive cheek and eyelid lymphedema, which extended from the patient's left lower eyelid to patient's oral commissure measured 11 × 15 cm with a thickened, brawny, lobulated, and bosselated skin surface. This mass interfered with activities of daily life, caused poor oral intake, and contributed to the patient's severe kyphosis. Because the mass did not clinically or radiologically appear to be malignant, we decided to perform a salvage procedure consisting of wide excision of the massive lymphedematous mass and immediate coverage with a split-thickness skin grafting. Temporary tarsorraphy sutures were also used to provide support to the lower eyelid. The patient tolerated the procedure well, with no complications and with full take of the skin graft. Postoperatively, he was very grateful to be relieved of his debilitating symptoms.

From the University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago, Illinois.

Received August 15, 2009.

Accepted for publication November 7, 2009.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Adam T. Silverman, MD, MS, Department of Plastic Surgery, University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago, 840 S Wood St, Chicago, IL 60612; E-mail:

© 2010 Mutaz B. Habal, MD