The measurement of skin lymph flow by isotope clearance--reliability, reproducibility, injection dynamics, and the effect of massage

J Invest Dermatol. 1990 Dec;95(6):677-82. doi: 10.1111/1523-1747.ep12514347.


The measurement of skin lymph flow was investigated using an isotope clearance technique (ICT). Multiple lymph flow determinations were undertaken in the skin of anaesthetized large white pigs to test for reproducibility, ascertain the most suitable tracer, study the influence of injection dynamics, and observe the effect of massage as a stimulus to lymph flow. Blood clearance of tracer was also investigated. Results demonstrated that lymphatic clearance is a monoexponential function with good reproducibility under controlled laboratory conditions. 99mTc-colloid (TCK17 Cis) compared favorably with 131I-human serum albumin as a tracer and both performed better than colloid gold (198Au). Lymph flow was significantly faster in one pig than in the other. No difference existed between left and right sides or between caudal and rostral sites on each flank, but clearance was significantly slower in thigh than flank skin. Sub-epidermal injections cleared faster and more consistently than either deep or subcutaneous injections. Neither injection volume nor needle tract backflow of tracer influenced results, but local massage significantly enhanced clearance. Escape of 99mTc-colloid by the blood was negligible. These results indicate that skin lymph flow can be reliably measured when conditions are controlled. Extrinsic factors such as massage strongly influence lymph flow. Greater sensitivity in detecting degrees of lymphatic insufficiency may be achieved if a standardized stimulus to lymph flow is administered during isotope clearance measurement.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Gold Radioisotopes / metabolism*
  • Iodine Radioisotopes / metabolism*
  • Lymphatic System / physiology*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Skin Physiological Phenomena*
  • Swine
  • Technetium / metabolism*


  • Gold Radioisotopes
  • Iodine Radioisotopes
  • Technetium