Lower Extremity Lymphatic Function Predicted by Body Mass Index: A Lymphoscintigraphic Study of Obesity and Lipedema
Christopher L. Sudduth, MD, Arin K. Greene, MD.
Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
BACKGROUND: Patients with obesity and lipedema commonly are misdiagnosed as having lymphedema. The conditions share phenotypic overlap and can influence each other. The purpose of this study was to delineate these disorders in order to improve their diagnosis and treatment.
METHODS: Our Lymphedema Center database of 700 patients was searched for patients with obesity-induced lymphedema (OIL), obesity without lymphedema (OWL), and lipedema. Patient age, sex, diagnosis, cellulitis history, body mass index (BMI), and treatment was recorded. Only subjects with lymphoscintigraphic documentation of their lymphatic function were included.
RESULTS: Ninety-eight patients met inclusion criteria. Subjects with abnormal lymphatic function (n=46) had a greater BMI (65 +/- 12) and cellulitis history (n=30, 65%) compared to individuals with normal lymphatic function [(BMI 42 +/- 10); (cellulitis n=8, 15%)] (p<0.001). Seventeen patients had a history of lipedema and 2 exhibited abnormal lymphatic function (BMI 45, 54). The risk of having lower extremity lymphedema was predicted by BMI: BMI<40 (0%), 40-49 (17%), 50-59 (63%), 60-69 (86%), 70-79 (91%), ≥80 (100%). Five patients with OIL (11%) underwent resection of massive localized lymphedema (MLL) or suction-assisted lipectomy. Three individuals (18%) with lipedema were treated with suction-assisted lipectomy.
CONCLUSIONS: The risk of lymphedema in patients with obesity and lipedema can be predicted by BMI; confirmation requires lymphoscintigraphy. Individuals with OIL are at risk for cellulitis and MLL. Patients with a BMI>40 are first managed with weight loss. Excisional procedures can further reduce extremity size once BMI has been lowered.
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