Investigational lymphatic imaging at the bedside in a pediatric postoperative chylothorax patient

Pediatr Cardiol. 2014 Oct;35(7):1295-300. doi: 10.1007/s00246-014-0946-y. Epub 2014 Jun 28.


Chylothorax is a rare but serious complication in children who undergo heart surgery. Its pathogenesis is poorly understood, and invasive surgical treatments are considered only after conservative management fails. Current diagnostic imaging techniques, which could aid decision making for earlier surgical intervention, are difficult to apply. Herein, we deployed near-infrared fluorescence (NIRF) lymphatic imaging to allow the visualization of abnormal lymphatic drainage in an infant with postoperative chylothorax to guide the choice of surgical management. A 5-week-old male infant, who developed chylothoraces after undergoing Norwood surgery for hypoplastic left heart syndrome, was intradermally administered trace doses of indocyanine green in both feet and the left hand. NIRF imaging was then performed at the bedside to visualize lymphatic drainage patterns. Imaging results indicated impeded lymphatic drainage from the feet toward the trunk with no fluorescence in the chest indicating no leakage of peripheral lymph at the thoracic duct. Instead, lymph drainage occurred from the axilla directly into the pleural cavity. As a result of imaging, left pleurodesis was performed to stop the pleural effusion with the result of temporary decrease of left chest tube drainage. Although additional studies are required to understand normal and abnormal lymphatic drainage patterns in infants, we showed the potential of using NIRF lymphatic imaging at the bedside to visualize the lymphatic drainage pathway to guide therapy. Timely management of chylothorax may be improved by using NIRF imaging to understand lymphatic drainage pathways.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Chylothorax / diagnosis*
  • Chylothorax / etiology
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome / surgery*
  • Infant
  • Lymphography / methods*
  • Male
  • Norwood Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Point-of-Care Systems*
  • Postoperative Care / methods*