Surg Obes Relat Dis. 2022 May; 18(5): 628-633
BACKGROUND Lipedema often remains undiagnosed in patients with obesity, leading to mismanagement of treatment. Because of this, despite remarkable weight loss after bariatric surgery and decreases in hip and abdomen circumference, some patients show only small decreases in circumference of the extremities and report persistent limb pain.
OBJECTIVE The goal of this work is to raise awareness of lipedema coincident with obesity, mistakenly diagnosed as obesity alone, in order to ensure the correct diagnosis of the condition and to achieve better treatment outcomes for people with lipedema and coincident obesity.
SETTING CG Lympha Clinic, Cologne, and Ernst von Bergmann Clinic, Potsdam.
METHODS From clinical records, we identified 13 patients who were diagnosed with lipedema only after undergoing bariatric surgery. We describe the course of their pain before and after bariatric surgery, focusing on the long-term progression of symptoms accompanying the disease.
RESULTS Lipedema cannot be cured by bariatric surgery, and although the patients in this study lost an average of more than 50 kg of weight, they displayed no improvement in the pain symptoms typical of lipedema.
CONCLUSIONS Because of the different etiologies of lipedema and obesity, lipedema requires its own specific treatment. Patients suffering from obesity should always be assessed for pain and lipedema. If coincident lipedema is diagnosed, we suggest that bariatric surgery only be performed first if diet and exercise have failed, the patient’s body mass index is>40 kg/m 2 , and the patient has been informed of the possible persistence of pain. Lipedema, like a coincident disease, must be additionally treated conservatively or preferably surgically. This optimized treatment may help to better manage patient expectations after weight loss.
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