Indocyanine green lymphography as novel tool to assess lymphatics in patients with lipedema

Microvasc Res. 2022 Mar:140:104298. doi: 10.1016/j.mvr.2021.104298. Epub 2021 Dec 9.


Objective: Lipedema is a chronic and progressive disease associated with lymphatic impairment at later stages. The aim of our study was to describe the functional status and anatomy of lower limb superficial lymphatic system using indocyanine green (ICG) lymphography in patients with lipedema.

Methods: Following ICG injection at the dorsum of the foot, distance (cm) covered by the dye at 10 (T10') and 25 min (T25') was measured and normalized for limb length. If the dye did not reach the groin within 25 min, patients were classified as "drainage-needing" group (DNG). Values of fat and lean distribution assessed by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry were extracted, and correlation analysis was performed. Furthermore, anatomical patterns of superficial lymphatics were assessed.

Results: Overall, 45 women were included, 25 (56%) of whom were classified as DNG. Symptoms duration was significantly associated with DNG status at multivariate analysis (odds ratio 1.07; 95% CI 1.01-1.14; p = 0.047). Moreover, Spearman's analysis showed a negative correlation between symptoms duration and T25' dye migration (r = -0.469; p = 0.037). Overall, no major anatomical lymphatic changes were found.

Conclusions: Present study suggests that lymphatic functioning in patients with lipedema correlates with symptoms duration. Further research on larger cohorts should verify our findings and clarify their potential therapeutic implications. Overall, ICG lymphography may be promising technique to assess both lymphatic anatomy and functioning in patients with lipedema.

Keywords: Body composition assessment; Indocyanine green lymphography; Lipedema; Lymphatic disease.

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Adiposity
  • Adult
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Dyes*
  • Humans
  • Indocyanine Green*
  • Lipedema / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lipedema / physiopathology
  • Lower Extremity
  • Lymphatic Vessels / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lymphatic Vessels / physiopathology
  • Lymphography / methods*
  • Male
  • Optical Imaging*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Indocyanine Green