The clinical and research lymphoedema team from the Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences at MQ hosted international guests to complete an intensive week of surgical training, rehabilitation management, education and research collaborations. The MQ team welcomed Associate Professor Håkan Brorson from Sweden who is the founder and leader of liposuction for lymphoedema surgery across the world. Brorson has successfully completed liposuction for over 21 years in Sweden and has extensive research data and publications showing the positive outcomes of his program. Brorson trained members of the MQ team 3 years ago and was instrumental in imparting his knowledge, skills and experience to our team in making the Australian program so successful.

Prof John Boyages. Associate Dean, International & Engagement and Lymphoedema Program Director said "It was an intense week of activities, but linking in with the "Father of Liposuction for Lymphoedema" was an enormous honour".  He was extremely impressed with our program and a future research collaboration has been initiated. Prof Brorson is the current President of the International Society of Lymphology.

From left to Right: Professor John Boyages (Lymphoedema Program Director), Dr Meredith Simcock (plastic surgeon from NZ), Prof Hakan Brorson, Dr Alessandra Canal (plastic surgeon from NZ), Lymphoedema therapist Peggy Williams, Louise Koelmeyer (Lymphoedema Program Manager) and Dr Thomas Lam (Liposuction plastic surgeon, MUH).

Currently Macquarie University Hospital (MUH) is the only facility in the Southern Hemisphere to offer liposuction for eligible lymphoedema patients, and 25% of the clinic’s patients have had to travel from interstate and two even from New Zealand. We welcomed a team of two plastic surgeons and a lymphoedema practitioner from New Zealand who were sponsored by the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation to be trained in offering a liposuction for lymphoedema program during Brorson’s visit. “Our team are now leaders in this practice in their own right, having successfully launched our program three years ago and building our own expertise in an entirely different climate to Sweden. We are now sharing our expertise with a team of clinician contacts based in New Zealand,” said Louise Koelmeyer, Lymphoedema Program Manager of the MUH program.

Lymphoedema may affect individuals physically, functionally and psychologically and is often a daily reminder of their cancer diagnosis and treatment. Despite early detection and intervention being a key component of management, the need for a surgical approach for advanced fatty lymphoedema using liposuction is important. Over the last 3 years data collated by research & medical staff at Macquarie University Hospital has shown that liposuction surgery was performed on 35 eligible lymphoedema patients which had a success rate of nearly 100% volume reduction and significiant physical, functional and psychological gains, in one case relieving a patient of nearly eight litres of excess fat in her right leg.

During the week the team completed liposuction surgery on 2 cancer survivors from Queensland. One had 2 litres of fat removed from her arm and the other had 10.5 litres of fat removed from her leg. This was the largest leg operated on by the MQ liposuction team and the 2nd largest leg for Brorson in his 21 years of completing the surgery. Both women were delighted with the initial results and have been discharged to recover and rehabilitate back home. They will make regular trips every 3 months to MQ for the first two years after surgery so that measurements can be taken for custom made compression garments which is an integral component of the long term success of the surgery. Koelmeyer says the liposuction treatment is an unexpected approach to lymphoedema management, but the results speak for themselves and have been life changing for so many.

Another highlight of the intensive week’s program was the delivery of a whole day “health professional” and afternoon “consumer” forum. Presentations were given by medical and allied health clinicians, researchers, basic scientists and a PhD student. The topics included cancer and lymphoedema treatments and care, basic science research outcomes, new research data and patient support and advocacy.
One hundred and thirty health professionals from varying disciplines (lymphoedema therapists, nurses, psychologists, medical practitioners) and eighty consumers attended the forums.  “We were excited to host a broad range of lymphoedema stakeholders and presenters at our Forums including sponsors Macquarie University, Sydney Vital and Smith & Nephew.  We were particularly glad to welcome Associate Professor Håkan Brorson to present at both forums which was very well received. There were some MUH patients in attendance who thanked Brorson for his initiative and insight into developing the liposuction program which has changed their lives for the better.

Both sessions facilitated the shared learning of current best practices for patient outcomes and care. With the spread of these treatment advancements such as the liposuction technique it I important for practitioners to know what best practice options for management are available. There were interactive case presentations and panel discussions so that audience participation was encouraged in asking questions to the speakers. At the closing of the Forum both Associate Professor Brorson and the medical lead of MQ's advanced lymphoedema clinic, Dr Helen Mackie were given life-time achievement awards by the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences on their outstanding contributions to lymphoedema.

On the final day of the week’s program the international visitors attended the multidisciplinary team meeting and clinic where they observed and interacted with patients attending for assessment and follow up. Overall an enriching and wonderful experience for all who participated in the extensive week’s program. Strong partnerships and research collaborations were formed.