Barrellier MT.
[Lymphedema: is there a treatment?]
[Article in French]
Rev Med Interne 1992 Jan-Feb;13(1):49-57

Angeiologie, Laboratoire d'Explorations fonctionnelles, CHRU Cote de Nacre, Caen.

More than hundred medical treatments for lymphedema have been described. This
very high number shows the evidence of difficulties: lymphatics are very small
vessels, under low pression and velocity respondent to spontaneous quiet
lymphatic contractions. The treatments can be listed in 3 groups: 1)
physiotherapeutic methods, increasing lymphatic flow: cold, field stimulation,
manual lymph drainage, intermittent compression, heat; 2) drugs: venous agents
(flavone, benzo-pyrone), and intraarterial lymphocytes injection, promoting
lymphatic flow or increasing normal proteolysis by macrophages in order to remove
trapped proteins from interstitial fluid; 3) surgical procedures subdivided in 2
groups: excisional techniques and bridging drainage techniques; radical or
partial excision removes involved subcutaneous tissue, recently by the way of
liposuction; Efforts to drain lymphedema by subcutaneous implants, pedical flaps,
myocutaneous flaps, omental transposition and intestinal flaps are historical.
Microsurgical lymphatic anastomosis to vein (nodo-venous then lymphovenous), and
to lymphatic themselves are now performed: lymphatic collectors or venous
autografts are interpositioned to by-pass lymphatic blockade with end-to end
anastomosis. The free transplantation of a lymphatic flap with its own
vascularisation from healthy inguinal nodes to axillary blockade is the last
described procedure. Lymphatic anastomosis are not needed. Actually,
physiotherapy is always first indicated. Benzo-pyrones are additive drugs.
Excisional procedures concern monstruous lymphedema. Microsurgical bridging
procedures can be attempted only for secondary lymphedemas. They could be of
benefit if physiotherapy and elastic bandages, stockings or sleeves, could then
be avoided. Studies assessing independently the efficiency of each procedure are