Lipoedema-myths and facts, Part 5: European Best Practice of Lipoedema – Summary of the European Lipoedema Forum consensus

Tobias Bertsch, Gabriele Erbacher, D. Corda, R. J. Damstra, K. Van Duinen, R. Elwell, J. Van Esch-Smeenge, G. Faerber, S. Fetzer, J. Fink, A. Fleming, Y. Frambach, K. Gordon, D. Hardy, A. Hendrickx, T. Hirsch, B. Koet, P. Mallinger, A. Miller, C. MoffattN. Torio-Padron, C. Ure, S. Wagner, T. Zähringer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The four previous articles in this series addressed the myths and facts surrounding lipoedema. We have shown that there is no scientific evidence at all for the key statements made about lipoedema-which are published time and time again. The main result of this misunderstanding of lipoedema is a therapeutic concept that misses the mark. The patient's real problems are overlooked. The national and especially the international response to the series, which can be read in both German and English, has been immense and has exceeded all our expectations. The numerous reactions to our articles make it clear that in other countries, too, the fallacies regarding lipoedema have led to an increasing discrepancy between the experience of healthcare workers and the perspective of patients and self-help groups, based on misinformation mostly generated by the medical profession. Parts 1 to 4 in this series of articles on the myths surrounding lipoedema have made it clear that we have to radically change the view of lipoedema that has been held for decades. Changing our perspective means getting away from the idea of oedema in lipoedema- A nd hence away from the dogma that decongestion is absolutely necessary- A nd towards the actual problems faced by our patients with lipoedema. Such a paradigm shift in a disease that has been described in the same way for decades cannot be left to individuals but must be put on a much broader footing. For this reason, the lead author of this series of articles invited renowned lipoedema experts from various European countries to discussions on the subject. Experts from seven different countries took part in the two European Lipoedema Forums, with the goal of establishing a consensus. The consensus reflects the experts' shared view on the disease, having scrutinized the available literature, and having taken into account the many years of clinical practice with this particular patient group. Appropriate to the clinical complexity of lipoedema, participants from different specialties provided an interdisciplinary approach. Nearly all of the participants in the European Lipoedema Forum had already published work on lipoedema, had been involved in drawing up their national lipoedema guidelines, or were on the executive board of their respective specialty society. In this fifth and final part of our series on lipoedema, we will summarise the relevant findings of this consensus, emphasising the treatment of lipoedema as we now recommend it. As the next step, the actual consensus paper European Best Practice of Lipoedema will be issued as an international publication. Instead of looking at the treatment of oedema, the consensus paper will focus on treatment of the soft tissue pain, as well as the psychological vulnerability of patients with lipoedema. The relationship between pain perception and the patient's mental health is recognised and dealt with specifically. The consensus also addresses the problem of self-acceptance, and this plays a prominent role in the new therapeutic concept. The treatment of obesity provides a further pillar of treatment. Obesity is recognised as being the most common comorbid condition by far and an important trigger of lipoedema. Bariatric surgery should therefore also be considered for patients with lipoedema who are morbidly obese. The expert group upgraded the importance of compression therapy and appropriate physical activity, as the demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects directly improve the patients' symptoms. Patients will be provided with tools for personalised self-management in order to sustain sucessful treatment. Should conservative therapy fail to improve the symptoms, liposuction may be considered in strictly defined circumstances. The change in the view of lipoedema that we describe here brings the patients' actual symptoms to the forefront. This approach allows us to focus on more comprehensive treatment that is not only more effective but also more sustainable than focusing on the removal of non-existent oedema.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-49
Number of pages19
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2020


  • european consensus
  • lipoedema
  • paradigm shift
  • therapy


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