Visualization of Both the Superficial and Deep Lymphatic System of the Upper Extremity Using Magnetic Resonance Lymphography

J.A.G.N. Wolfs, S.S. Qiu, M.B.I. Lobbes, E. Bijkerk, R.R.W.J. van der Hulst, X.H.A. Keuter*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: The lymphatic system consists of the superficial and deep lymphatic system. Several diagnostic methods are used to assess the lymphatic system. Lymphoscintigraphy and indocyanine green lymphography are widely applied, both showing disadvantages, such as a poor resolution and lack of field of view. Magnetic resonance lymphography (MRL) shows satisfactory temporal and spatial resolution. The aim of this study was to assess both the superficial and deep lymphatic system in the upper extremity of healthy subjects, using an MRL protocol. Methods and Results: Ten healthy volunteers underwent an MRL examination, using a three Tesla MRI unit. Water-soluble gadolinium was used as a contrast agent. MRL images were evaluated by an experienced radiologist on image quality, enhancement of veins and lymphatic vessels, and characteristics of the latter. Overall image quality was good to excellent. In all subjects, veins and lymphatic vessels could be distinguished. Superficial and deep lymphatic vessels were seen in 9 out of 10 subjects. Lymphatic vessels with a diameter between 0.9 and 4.3 mm were measured. Both veins and lymphatic vessels showed their characteristic appearance. Enhancement of veins was seen directly after contrast agent injection, which decreased over time. Lymphatic vessel enhancement slowly increased over time. Mean total MRL examination (room) time was 110 minutes (81 minutes scan time). Conclusions: The MRL protocol accurately visualizes both deep and superficial lymphatic vessels showing their characteristic appearances with high spatial resolution, indicating the MRL can be of value in diagnosing and staging peripheral lymphedema.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-281
Number of pages7
JournalLymphatic Research and Biology
Issue number3
Early online date2 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2022


  • magnetic resonance lymphography
  • upper extremity
  • lymphatic system
  • lymphedema


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