Lymphoedema Treatment

What is lymphoedema?

Our bodies have a network of tissues and organs that make up something called the lymphatic system. The purpose of this system is to transport lymph fluid through the body that removes toxins and waste materials. This is an important part of our immune system.

Lymphoedema occurs when there is a blockage in the lymphatic system, which causes lymph fluid to build up resulting in swelling. This swelling usually occurs in the arms or legs and can be painful.


What causes lymphoedema?

Lymphoedema is often caused by the removal of lymph nodes as part of surgical treatment for cancer or due to damage to lymph vessels during radiation treatment.


How is it treated?

When lymph fluid builds up and has spent some time in the tissues of your swollen arm or leg, it can cause inflammation and encourage fat cells to grow. When this happens, liposuction can assist by removing some of these fat cells.


What happens during liposuction for lymphoedema?

Before surgery

The first step is to make an appointment to see Dr McMillan.

You will meet Dr McMillan at his private rooms in Fernbrae House, Dunedin or in Invercargill to discuss your concerns about lymphoedema and the options that exist for you. This is an important step; not only outlining your expectations, but also developing your relationship with Dr McMillan as you work together to achieve your goals.

Dr McMillan works closely with specialised physiotherapists to ensure lymphoedema is addressed appropriately for each individual. Liposuction can only be done at the appropriate time in order to prevent further harm.

If liposuction for lymphoedema is right for you, then together you and Dr McMillan will decide on the next steps, and a date will be booked for you to have your liposuction at Mercy Hospital, Dunedin.

During surgery

The procedure will involve having a general anaesthetic. Once you are asleep, a device with a needle is inserted into your arm or leg where the fat has collected.

Through this device a saline solution will be injected into the area to make removal easier. The fluid and fat are then sucked out.

Recovery process

This is a day procedure. You will not need to stay in hospital after liposuction for lymphoedema.

There will be some initial swelling, bruising and soreness around the area that received liposuction.

It is likely you will need to wear a compression garment, tight-fitting, elasticised clothing, to assist with minimising swelling after the procedure.


Expected outcome

Liposuction removes fat cells permanently. However, there is always the possibility for new fat cells to develop, especiallyif this is the cause of your lymphoedema. It may not be permanently “fixed” by this procedure.

After liposuction for lymphoedema, Dr McMillan will refer you to specialised physiotherapists he works closely with. They will provide you with exercises, tips and garments to assist in slowing any return of excess swelling and reduce the impact lymphoedema has on your life.


Risks and complications

As with all surgical procedures, there are risks and potential complications having liposuction for lymphoedema. Dr McMillan will discuss all of these with you during your consultation and answer your questions.



There are costs associated with having liposuction for lymphoedema done privately. The exact figure will depend on a range of factors but generally the cost is between $7,000 and $12,000 including hospital and anaesthetic costs.


Contact us

Start the journey towards a more comfortable life; get in contact to make an initial consultation with Dr McMillan to see if liposuction for lymphoedema could assist you.

Dr Will McMillan Plastic Surgery in Dunedin

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