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Radiology. 1992 Jul;184(1):227-31.

Swollen lower extremity: role of MR imaging.

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  • 1Department of Medical Radiology, University Hospital Zurich, Switzerland.


The authors assessed the use of magnetic resonance imaging in differentiating lymphedema, phlebedema, and lipedema of the lower limb. They examined 14 patients: five with lipedema, five with lymphedema, and four with phlebedema. T1- and T2-weighted transaxial sequences were performed before administration of gadolinium tetraazacyclododecane-tetraacetic acid (DOTA) and T1-weighted spin-echo sequences were performed after administration of Gd-DOTA in each patient. Images of patients with lipedema showed homogeneously enlarged subcutaneous layers, with no increase in signal intensity at T2-weighted imaging or after Gd-DOTA administration. Patients with phlebedema had areas containing increased amounts of fluid within muscle and subcutaneous fat. In lymphedema, a honeycomb pattern above the fascia between muscle and subcutis was observed, with a marked increase in signal intensity at T2-weighted imaging. After Gd-DOTA administration, there was only a slight increase in signal intensity in the subcutis in lymphedema and phlebedema and a moderate increase in signal intensity in muscle in phlebedema.

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