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Case Study
Mar 27
  • Pre-Surgery (L) Post Second Surgery (R)

  • Pre-Surgery (L) Post Second Surgery (R)

  • Pre-Surgery (L) Post Second Surgery (R)

  • Pre-Surgery (L) Post Second Surgery (R)

  • Denise with Dr Lekich in July 2023

Lipoedema Surgery – Case 44

Meet Denise, a 58-year-old international patient from New Zealand, who spent most of her life toiling away to fix her body, despite being totally unaware of an underlying genetic condition called Lipoedema.

Since her late teen years, Denise noticed pain, discomfort, and numerous veins in her ‘tree-trunkish’ legs. It always made her self-conscious and embarrassed to show her lower body and she tried to cover up as much as possible.

An early boyfriend once remarked, “if it wasn’t for your legs, you could be a model.” While Denise felt as though he didn’t mean to insult her, the comment stuck her whole life.As she got into her late 30s Denise’s Lipoedema escalated, likely with pregnancy as a trigger. Her legs swelled with pain and seemed to bruise much more easily than before.

Denise was still not yet aware of her Lipoedema, and running parallel to the physical condition, Denise had also been developing mental health issues as a result. She recalls, “mental health has been a challenge for a long, long while since I’ve had this. I tried to come off medication but haven’t been that successful.”

Denise attempted traditional liposuction in her 20s, although it produced limited long-term results. Trying to shave down her fat again, Denise later had an expensive gastric balloon procedure which she once more had little to show for with results. She would also attempt treatments for spider veins, however they would inexplicably reappear shortly after.

It wasn’t until her 50s in which Denise finally heard about Lipoedema, the condition she’d been grappling with. By coincidence she had been watching a program featuring Dr Heck, a German doctor who mentored Dr Lekich.

Denise first saw Dr Lekich in 2021 and was diagnosed at stage 3, requiring 3 surgeries for her legs and 1 for her arms.

“I thought to myself I think this is what I have because I’ve tried everything else, from exercising and starving myself to death … just him telling me that gave me quite a bit of relief because now I know it’s not all in my mind.

I know that it’s nothing I’ve done in my life, I’m healthy, I exercise. It was something out of my control, so that was validating after many years of being told by people to stop eating so much and exercise more. They don’t get it and don’t believe you. And that’s really tough.”

As part of her surgical preparation, Denise adopted a low fat, low carb diet and trained in Pilates to shave off any secondary obesity. Weekly manual lymphatic drainage was also a requirement, as well as wearing compression stockings.

She found the conservative management techniques completely doable, and decided if she was serious about the procedure, she had to do everything to the letter to get the most successful outcome.

Utilising a protocol to manage underlying venous disease and a Lymph-Sparing technique, a total of 3.7L of diseased fat was removed from her lower legs in July 2022 by Dr Lekich. Almost a year later in May 2023, Denise returned to Australia to have 3L of Lipoedema fat removed from her posterior upper thighs, and a further 2.5L from her lower legs 2 months later in July.

She has yet to do a final surgery for her arms but is aware she can return any time provided she can bear the expense and travel.

By the conclusion of her surgeries, particularly her second one, Denise noticed an unmistakable improvement to her mental health, feeling a rise in positivity and a healthier outlook. She hopes to wean off medication which she has been taking since she was 19 years old.

Denise described herself as angry for having spent years wasting money on ineffective treatments, but also reminds herself that it wasn’t her fault as she wasn’t aware what was wrong with her and was never pointed in the right direction.

Denise had this to say to other women with Lipoedema, “Please don’t feel like you’re on your own, don’t listen to people who say there’s nothing wrong with you and to get over yourself, that’s not the case … The sooner you ask for help the sooner you can get yourself sorted. Consider doing surgery to catch the disease at the beginning, because when you get to the end, you’re looking at 3 or 4 surgeries, which is a greater expense and a greater trauma on your body.”

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