Daily Mail & Mail Online
It is Britain’s most popular cosmetic ‘nip-tuck’ operation for those who want a slimmer silhouette. But growing evidence shows liposuction can help those suffering a painful condition that causes limbs to swell to double the usual size.
Lymphoedema occurs when the lymphatic system – vessels that transport fluids and immune system cells around the body – stops working properly.
The condition is common in women who have had their lymph nodes removed while being treated for breast or cervical cancer, or if the lymphatic system is harmed as a result of radiotherapy.
One lymphoedema patient whose life has been transformed by the new procedure called microlipo is book editor Judith Hanson.
The 56-year-old from Bridlington, East Yorkshire, first noticed a swelling in her groin after having a hysterectomy and radiotherapy to treat cervical cancer in 2000. Before long, her left ankle, thigh, knee and calf were also swollen, leaving Judith with a ‘hideous elephant leg’.
To reduce the swelling, she underwent three courses of microlipo. Unlike traditional methods of liposuction, which require a general anaesthetic and a stay in hospital, microlipo is carried out under local anaesthetic, and fatty cells and fluid are suctioned out via a cannula just a millimetre thick.
‘Until I had microlipo, I hid my leg away under long skirts and baggy trousers and had grown used to dragging it around because it was so heavy and cumbersome.
After the trauma of going through cancer, it was another huge blow to develop lymphoedema. I felt ugly and was convinced I looked like a freak. Ordinarily, I was a dress size 10 to 12 but suddenly I had a hideous elephant leg.’
During her first treatment, Dr Puneet Gupta, medical director at The Private Clinic in Harley Street, removed more than a litre and a half of fluid and fat from her left thigh.
‘Next he treated my knee and the remaining part of my thigh, and during the third procedure he tackled my calf and ankle,’ recalls Judith. ‘I was absolutely amazed that he managed to make my leg look like it used to. I feel like the old me again.’