For these next couple of posts, we’re going to have a change of programming here on The Lymphie Life and talk about lipedema.
This is something I’ve wanted to address on the site for a while, as many patients living with lipedema also have lymphedema. In this series, we’ll learn about the surgical treatment of lipedema through conversation with California-based surgeon Dr. David Amron, a medical professional who is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of lipedema surgery here in the United States.
What is lipedema?
Lipedema is a misunderstood and oft-misdiagnosed disease affecting approximately 370 million women worldwide. At its simplest definition, it’s an adipose tissue disorder that manifests as an abnormal and disproportionate accumulation of fat in the legs, and rarely in other areas such as the abdomen and arms. As the fat cells expand and compromise the lymphatic system, it’s common for lymphedema to develop; this is called lipo-lymphedema.
Lipedema is chronic, progressive, and painful, and a regimen of diet and exercise won’t lose the fat: the only treatment options are either conservative treatment (such as manual lymph drainage, compression garments and bandaging, skin care) or surgical intervention (usually liposuction).
Earlier this year, I attended the Fat Disorders Research Society conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was a whirlwind couple of days featuring a packed schedule of lectures and seminars focused on adipose tissue disorders like lipedema and Dercum’s disease — disorders I had heard of but admittedly knew little about.
Needless to say I learned a lot from the presentations, but the biggest learning opportunity came from meeting and mingling with the patients, doctors, and therapists also attending the conference. One such doctor I had the distinct pleasure of meeting was Dr. David Amron.
Introducing Dr. Amron
Specializing in liposuction, lipedema treatment, and body contouring procedures, Dr. Amron is a board-certified dermatologic surgeon and the founder and medical director of The Roxbury Institute. His tailored, scientific approach to surgery and his exemplary patient care have earned him an international reputation over his 20-plus years in the industry, as have his innovations in lipedema treatment.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Dr. Amron over the phone about how he first became involved in lipedema treatment, what his multi-system approach is like, and what patients can expect when they schedule a surgery. Speaking with Dr. Amron was an enlightening experience — I hope you’ll enjoy the conversation as much as I did!
Interview has been edited due to length and compiled into a series of three posts, the first being a brief introduction to Dr. Amron and his practice.
THE LYMPHIE LIFE: How did you come to be involved in lipedema? Not only are you specialized in the surgical treatment of lipedema, but you are also an advocate for the community.
DR. AMRON: Well, my practice has been focused around liposuction as a specialization for 22 years, and I got involved in all different aspects of liposuction – not just cosmetic liposuction, but a lot of complicated revision stuff. I began to develop techniques for less common areas, such as the calves and ankles, even areas of the forearms and the anterior thigh area – I started developing a circumferential approach to these areas.
Probably over 12 years ago I did a European TV show and I was highlighting calf and ankle liposuction. I had all these European patients come from France and England and Germany saying they’ve got lipedema and for me to do their liposuction – that was the first I’d actually ever heard the term “lipedema.”
The patients actually kind of found their way to me because of my approach to these areas, and then I started to do more and more lipedema… currently, the majority of my practice is lipedema surgery. I’m involved in every aspect of it. My whole practice is pretty much dedicated to lipedema – 90% of my surgeries are lipedema surgeries. All the different media stuff I do, most of it is directed towards increasing awareness for lipedema around the world, and I’m starting to get involved in clinical studies – I feel a responsibility to do that because I see so many patients, and have all the data for it. I also educate and speak at conferences, so – it means a lot to me.
TLL: That’s fantastic. It seems like the community is very patient-driven, so it’s interesting when you say the patients kind of “found” you. That makes sense to me, because that seems to be the way with a lot of these communities who generally don’t have a lot of representation in mainstream medical circles. That’s been my experience with lymphedema.
DR. A: Yes, especially because years ago there really was nobody really doing it. I hope this humbly comes across but I kind of view myself as a pioneer for starting lipedema surgery, in the United States at least. Now there’s more surgeons that are doing it, which is a good thing – I just think it should be done in a right way also. I want to see more surgeons doing it, I just think that surgeons should really only do it if truly their heart is into it. There’s so many different aspects to it – you’ve got the pre-care, the post-care – you’ve got to really understand it as a disease itself. You’re going to deal with all types of patients: it might be your Stage I or Stage II patients that are fairly straightforward, but then you’re going to deal with a Stage III or Stage IV lipo-lymphedema patient that you better know how to handle. Surgeons that get involved with lipedema have to understand the complex nature of the care and how the pre- and post- are so important.
TLL: Right – and I’d imagine there’s a huge psychological component to it also, that maybe differs from the general cosmetic surgeries a lot of these surgeons usually deal with. Having medical surgeries like this – it’s a whole other ball game. I like that you say that the heart needs to be in it because I feel that’s definitely the case, and patients probably appreciate that.
DR. A: These women have been suffering, they’ve been carrying the weight of this disease for years or decades, and have gone around and spent a lot of expectations and money with things like that. They’re carrying a big emotional component to it that goes back to their childhood, so –there definitely is an important psychological component to treating lipedema patients.
Check back tomorrow for part two of this conversation series, where Dr. Amron details his unique multi-system approach to advanced lipedema liposuction and discusses how he collaborates with other specialists to coordinate patient care!
To learn more about Dr. Amron or schedule a consultation, please visit amronmd.com. You can also connect with Dr. Amron on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and YouTube, and follow the Lipedema Society on Facebook and Instagram.