What is the role of imaging studies in the diagnosis of lymphedema?

Updated: Mar 24, 2021
  • Author: Robert A Schwartz, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: William D James, MD  more...
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Answer

Imaging is not necessary to make the diagnosis of lymphedema, but it can be used to confirm it, to assess the extent of involvement, and to determine therapeutic intervention. Such studies may include the following:

  • Plain radiographs: To exclude abnormalities of the bone

  • Computed tomography scanning: When malignancy is suspected

  • Magnetic resonance imaging: When malignancy is suspected or to show lymph trunk anatomy and causes of obstructive secondary lymphedema

  • Ultrasonography: To evaluate the lymphatic and venous systems

  • Fluorescence microlymphography: To demonstrate a lack of microlymphatics

  • Lymphoscintigraphy: Criterion standard for evaluation of the lymphatic system


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