Rest/Stress Intradermal Lymphoscintigraphy for the Functional Imaging of the Lymphatic System

Girolamo Tartaglione, Francesco Pio Ieria, Giuseppe Visconti, Roberto Bartoletti, Giulio Tarantino, Daniele Aloisi, Stefano Gentileschi, Marzia Salgarello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Purpose Lymphoscintigraphy is the criterion-standard method for diagnosing lymphedema, and there is no universally standardized imaging modality. In our center, we use a new approach: rest/stress intradermal lymphoscintigraphy. Methods We tested 231 consecutive patients with suspected lymphedema. All patients were studied after a complex physical therapy program to reduce edema. Two doses of Tc-99m-nanocolloid were injected intradermally. Two static planar scans were taken at rest following tracer injection. Next, patients performed an isotonic muscular exercise for 2 minutes followed by postexercise scans. Subsequently, a prolonged exercise was performed for 30 to 40 minutes, after which delayed scans were taken. Abnormal patterns were distinguished into minor or major findings, according to severity. Results We identified superficial lymphatic vessels and regional lymph nodes in approximately 80% of limbs. Deep vessels were visualized in 26% of limbs. Minor findings were reported in 22.7% of limbs examined, whereas major findings were reported in 53.2% of limbs. Conclusion We observed major findings including lymph stagnation, extravasation, or dermal backflow in a significantly higher percentage of limbs with secondary lymphedema than in primary. We also observed the deep lymphatic pathways in a significantly higher percentage of limbs with primary lymphedema. Intradermal radiotracer injection, combined with isotonic muscular exercise, may offer a better and faster imaging of lymphatic pathways, evaluating the effects of muscular exercise on lymphatic drainage. Based on the in-depth information of the lymphatic pathways provided by rest/stress intradermal lymphoscintigraphy, microsurgeons can obtain important functional information to perform supermicrosurgical lymphatic-venous anastomosis or vascularized lymph node transfer.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1011-1018
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Nuclear Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • exercise
  • intradermal injection
  • radionuclide imaging
  • lymphedema
  • lymphoscintigraphy
  • lymphatic system


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