Liposuction - lymphoedema

Liposuction is an operation which involves a suction technique to remove fat from certain areas of the body. This is done by inserting a thin tube through small cuts in the skin to draw fat out from the affected limbs, which helps to reduce the size of the limb. As liposuction is normally seen as a cosmetic procedure, it is not normally available through the NHS. However, liposuction can sometimes be used to treat certain health conditions.


Lymphoedema is a long-term (chronic) condition which causes swelling in the body's tissues. It can affect any part of the body; however, it usually develops in the arms or legs when the lymphatic system doesn't work properly.

The lymphatic system:

The lymphatic system is part of the immune system. It is made up of a network of tissues, organs and glands throughout the body which help to transport ‘lymph’, an infection fighting fluid around the body. It also helps to remove excess fluid and fats from our bodies. When it doesn’t work properly, it can cause swelling and encourage body fat to grow.


Conservative treatment for lymphoedema is the first choice and the patient should be referredto a specialist lymphoedema service for assessment. Current conservative treatments for lymphoedema includes:

  • Decongestive Lymphatic Therapy (DLT) which combines MLD massage with tightbandaging, good skin care, decongestive and exercise. Once DLT sessions are stopped, the patient is fitted with a custom-made compression garment, which is worn everyday.

Eligibility criteria:

Patients with lymphoedema will be considered for funding for liposuction if they have not responded to conservative treatments of lymphoedema. If conservative treatment fails, the patient’s specialist lymphoedema multidisciplinary team may consider recommending the patient for liposuction surgery to treat lymphoedema.This means the patient’s NHS commissioning organisation (CCG), who is responsible for buying healthcare services on behalf of patients, will only fund the treatment if the patient meets the above eligibility criteria or if an Individual Funding Request (IFR) application has shown exceptional clinical need and the CCG supports this.

Advice and further guidance:

Treatment policy for patients covered by NHS Birmingham and Solihull CCG

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