Lymphatic Drainage to the Paravertebral Lymph Nodes in Breast Cancer Patients

Lymphat Res Biol. 2017 Mar;15(1):99-106. doi: 10.1089/lrb.2016.0037.


Introduction: Aberrant, altered, or blocked lymphatic drainage may contribute to the high recurrence rate of breast cancer. Thus, an efficient evaluation of lymphatic drainage from the breasts and/or upper limbs is essential in the management of lymphedema and in ipsilateral primary or contralateral recurrent breast cancer patients. There are very few reports of lymphatic drainage to the paravertebral lymph nodes in patients with a lymphedema after breast cancer surgery with or without reconstruction.

Methods: We used lymphoscintigraphy to examine lymphatic drainage in a case series.

Results: We observed five patients with upper limb and/or mammary lymphedema (after breast cancer surgery with or without reconstruction) who had lymphatic drainage from the upper limb or breast to the posterior intercostal and/or paravertebral lymph nodes. One patient also presented with nodal relapse at the time of our investigation.

Conclusions: The cases from this study demonstrate the unusual, and mostly unrecognized, lymphatic drainage pathways toward lymph nodes, which may be at risk for further evolution of breast cancer.

Keywords: SPECT/CT; breast cancer surgery; lymphedema; lymphoscintigraphy; paravertebral lymph nodes.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Axilla
  • Breast Neoplasms / complications*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology*
  • Lymphatic System / pathology*
  • Lymphedema / diagnosis*
  • Lymphedema / etiology*
  • Lymphography
  • Lymphoscintigraphy
  • Mastectomy / adverse effects
  • Mastectomy / methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Positron Emission Tomography Computed Tomography
  • Spine*