Ever wondered what happens to your body after an operation?

25 July 2019 by Petra Erving
Ever wondered what happens to your body after an operation?

This post will explain why and how, some people get firmness or thick and fibrotic tissue after a surgical procedure, especially after liposuction and in particular Vaser liposuction. Each person/patient will react and heal differently but what makes our tissues change after surgery is due to swelling, which is a result of acute inflammation.

As a lymphoedema therapist I’ve always been a believer in the benefits of Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) pre and post operatively. Having MLD pre-operative is like clearing drains before a storm hits. If the drains are cleared of rubbish, then when the storm rains arrive, the flood water will drain away more easily. Similarly, if the lymphatic vessels are clear, the post-operative swelling should reduce more quickly. Of course, swelling will drain away itself eventually, but if you can help it along to speed up the healing process, wouldn’t you do it?

I often see patients who are only being referred to me for MLD six weeks after their procedure. At this point the acute swelling has been absorbed naturally by your body but frequently there is residual swelling trapped in the tissues because of fibrosis. Fibrosis is like scar tissue. Hard, thickened tissue which will eventually reduce but sometimes never completely disappears. The reason for this thickening is due to acute inflammation following trauma to the tissues. Inflammation occurs within seconds of injury to the tissues i.e. immediately after a surgical incision. The tissue swelling that occurs is due to a reversal of normal capillary absorption. This is because damaged capillaries (minute blood vessels) and injured tissues cause fluid to leak out of the veins into the surrounding tissue spaces - the interstitium. This fluid is full of concentrated proteins which reduces the capability of the capillaries and lymphatics to remove this protein rich fluid from the tissues. (You can read about body proteins HERE)

Normally the lymphatic system, which is responsible for draining fluid from the tissues, will remove the swelling. However, when there is too much of this protein rich fluid for the lymphatic system to cope with, it gets overwhelmed and the lymphatic channels get blocked. These means they can’t function properly. And so this fluid remains in the tissues. Over time the fluid will eventually reduce leaving the proteins which then cause the thickening and hardness that patients experience after surgery. If however, you manually assist the movement of the acute swelling into the lymphatics by having MLD - sometimes as soon as 24hrs after your surgery, you reduce the amount of swelling/fluid and therefore removing the proteins that very often cause the thickening.

So, if you want to improve the outcome of your surgical procedure why would you N not have MLD? I for one, would strongly recommend both pre and post-operative Manual Lymphatic Drainage. If your lymphatic channels are clear prior to your surgery, swelling will drain more easily. If you have post-operative MLD within the first week after your procedure, the swelling is removed more quickly. By doing this you will ultimately enhance the outcome of your procedure.

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