Article in Lymphatic Research and Biology 14(2) · May 2016
Liesbeth Vandermeeren, MD,
Jean-Jacques Moraine, PT, PhD,
Background: There are very little scientific data on occlusion pressure for superficial lymphatic collectors. Given its importance in determining the transport capacity of lymphatic vessels, it is crucial to know its value. The novel method of near-infrared fluorescence lymphatic imaging (NIRFLI) can be used to visualize lymphatic flow in real time. The goal of this study was to see if this method could be used to measure the lymphatic occlusion pressure. Methods: We observed and recorded lymph flow in the upper limb of healthy volunteers through a transparent cuff using near-infrared fluorescence lymphatic imaging. After obtaining a baseline of the lymph flow without pressure inside the cuff, the cuff was inflated by increments of 10 mm Hg starting at 30 mm Hg. A NIRFLI guided manual lymphatic drainage technique named "Fill & Flush Drainage Method" was performed during the measurement to promote lymph flow. Lymphatic occlusion pressure was determined by observing when lymph flow stopped under the cuff. Results: We measured the lymphatic occlusion pressure on 30 healthy volunteers (11 men and 19 women). Mean lymphatic occlusion pressure in the upper limb was 86 mm Hg (CI ±3.7 mm Hg, α = 0.5%). No significant differences were found between age groups (p = 0.18), gender (p = 0.12), or limb side (p = 0.85). Conclusions: NIRFLI, a transparent sphygmomanometer cuff and the "Fill and Flush" manual lymphatic drainage method were used to measure the lymphatic occlusion pressure in 30 healthy humans. That combination of these techniques allows the visualization of the lymph flow in real time, while ensuring the continuous filling of the lymph collectors during the measurement session, reducing false negative observations. The measured occlusion pressures are much higher than previously described in the medical literature.
FIG. 1. NIRFLI of the superficial lymphatic network and its schematic architecture. (A) In a normal condition, the lymph flows through the superficial collectors. (B) In a lymphedematous situation, the lymph is rerouted through the initial lymphatic network. Note: The schematic architecture of the superficial lymphatic network is adapted from Földi et al. 36 with written permission