Diagnosis of Lymphedema

Before making a diagnosis of lymphedema, your doctor will have to rule out other probable causes of the swelling. These can vary and can include anything like a blood clot, an injury or an infection. If you are at a high risk of developing lymphedema or if its cause isn't obvious, then your doctor may order an imaging test. Imaging tests allow for a detailed examination of the lymphatic system and can include:

  • Computerized Tomography (CT) Scans: This is an x-ray imaging technique. It produces detailed cross-sectional images of the body’s structures and can reveal blockages in the lymphatic system.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): This technique uses a magnetic field along with radio waves to produce a three dimensional, high-resolution image of the affected area. The images allow a doctor to get a better look at the affected area and can reveal the extent of the blockage or damage.
  • Doppler Ultrasound: This technique is a variation of the conventional ultrasound scan. It uses high-frequency sound waves to examine the flow of blood and pressure. It is useful in detecting obstructions that affect the flow of lymphatic fluid.
  • Radionuclide Imaging (lymphoscintigraphy): A radioactive dye is injected, followed by a scan that reveals the movement of the dye through the lymph vessels. The blocked areas are then highlighted.