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Current predictive models of lymphedema risk cannot predict with 100% certainty which patients will go on to develop lymphedema and which will not. Patient-specific anatomic and physiologic differences may be the missing factor. The authors hypothesize that patients with accessory lymphatic pathways may have improved lymphatic drainage, resulting in smaller limb volumes. The authors reviewed indocyanine green (ICG) lymphography images of all patients who presented to their institution for evaluation of breast cancer-related lymphedema. Patients with unilateral upper extremity lymphedema, a full set of bilateral limb measurements, and ICG images of both limbs were included. Other variables of interest included patient demographics and length of follow-up. Patients with accessory pathways were determined independently, and conflicts were resolved with discussion. Abnormal images were also evaluated for common drainage pathways. Thirty patients were identified as having accessory lymphatic drainage pathways. These patients had significantly smaller limb volume differences [8.19% (SD, 11.22)] compared with patients who did not exhibit these pathways [20.74% (SD, 19.76); P < 0.001]. The most common pathway was absence or rerouting of the radial bundle to the ulnar or volar bundles ( n = 16). The ability to create accessory lymphatic drainage pathways may be associated with improved lymphatic drainage, resulting in smaller limb volumes. Furthermore, certain drainage pathways appear to be more common than others. Description of these pathways should be considered for inclusion in ICG lymphography image grading criteria. Further study is needed to clarify the nature of these pathways and whether these pathways affect subjective symptoms and quality of life. Risk, II. Copyright © 2022 by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.


Leslie N Kim, Babak Mehrara, Joseph Dayan, Leslie McGrath, Michelle Coriddi. Accessory Lymphatic Drainage Pathways on Indocyanine Green Lymphography in Patients with Breast Cancer-Related Lymphedema. Plastic and reconstructive surgery. 2023 Jun 01;151(6):1015e-1021e

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PMID: 36728788

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