Non-contrast MR Lymphography of lipedema of the lower extremities

Magn Reson Imaging. 2020 Sep;71:115-124. doi: 10.1016/j.mri.2020.06.010. Epub 2020 Jun 17.


Aim: To assess imaging findings and characteristics of the lymphatic system in patients affected by lipedema and lipolymphedema of the lower extremities on Non-Contrast MR Lymphography (NCMRL).

Materials and methods: 44 lower extremities in 11 consecutive female patients affected by lipedema, and 11 patients with lipolymphedema were examined by NCMRL. MR imaging was performed on 1.5-T system MR equipment. The examination consisted of one 3D short-tau inversion recovery (STIR) and one heavily T2-weighted 3D-Turbo Spin Echo (TSE) sequence.

Results: All patients showed symmetrical enlargement of the lower extremities with increased subcutaneous fat tissue. The fat tissue was homogeneous, without any signs of edema in pure lipedema patients. In all the extremities with lipolymphedema, high signal intensity areas in the epifascial region could be detected on the 3D-TSE sequence (p < .001) with evidence of mild epifascial fluid collections (p < .001). No sign of honeycomb pattern fat appearance was observed. The appearance of the iliac lymphatic trunks was normal in both lipedema and lipolymphedema patients. Dilated peripheral lymphatics were observed in 2 patients affected by lipedema, indicating a subclinical status of lymphedema, and in 10 patients with lipolymphedema (p = .001). Signs of vascular stasis were observed in both groups, without statistically significant difference (p = .665).

Conclusion: NCMRL is a non-invasive imaging technique that is suitable for the evaluation of patients affected by lipedema and lipolymphedema, helping in the differential diagnosis.

Keywords: Lipedema; Lipolymphedema; Lymphatics; MRI; Non-contrast magnetic resonance Lymphography.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / pathology
  • Adult
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lipedema / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lower Extremity / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lower Extremity / pathology
  • Lymphography*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged