Near-infrared fluorescence imaging of lymphatics in head and neck lymphedema

Head Neck. 2012 Mar;34(3):448-53. doi: 10.1002/hed.21538. Epub 2010 Nov 12.


Background: Lymphedema is a complication that may occur after surgical resection and radiation treatment in a number of cancer types and is especially debilitating in regions where treatment options are limited. Although upper and lower extremity lymphedema may be effectively treated with manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) therapies and devices that use compression to direct proximal flow of lymph fluids, head and neck lymphedema is more challenging.

Methods and results: Herein, we describe the compassionate use of an investigatory technique of near-infrared (NIR) fluorescence imaging to understand the lymphatic anatomy and function, help direct MLD, and use 3-dimensional (3D) surface profilometry to monitor response to therapy in a patient with head and neck lymphedema after surgery and radiation treatment.

Conclusion: NIR fluorescence imaging provides a mapping of functional lymph vessels for direction of efficient MLD therapy in the head and neck. Additional studies are needed to assess the efficacy of MLD therapy when directed by NIR fluorescence imaging.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Compassionate Use Trials
  • Drainage
  • Fluorescent Dyes*
  • Fluoroscopy*
  • Humans
  • Indocyanine Green*
  • Lymphedema / diagnosis*
  • Lymphedema / etiology
  • Lymphedema / therapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Indocyanine Green