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J Mal Vasc. 2004 Dec;29(5):257-61.

[Comparative analysis of lymphoscintigraphy between lipedema and lower limb lymphedema].

[Article in French]

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Unité de Lymphologie, Hôpital Cognacq-Jay, Site Broussais, 102 rue Didot, 75674 Paris Cedex 14, France.


Lipedema is characterized by bilateral enlargement of the legs due to abnormal deposition of fat tissue from pelvis to ankles. It is seen most frequently in obese women. Lipedema appears to be a distinct clinical entity but may be confounded with lymphedema.


To analyze and to compare between lipedema and lymphedema the qualitative and quantitative aspects of lymphoscintigraphy.


Fifteen women with lipedema were recruited. Mean age of onset of lipedema was 31.5 +/- 15 years. Body mass index was 35.1 +/- 7.9 kg/m2, 13 women were obese. Lipedema was compared to 15 cases of primary lymphedema (women: 13, men: 2) of the lower limbs (unilateral: 13, bilateral: 2), with a mean age at onset of 28.7 +/- 12.6 years. Lymphoscintigraphy of the lower limbs with morphologic (visualization of inguinal lymph nodes) and kinetic (half-life, lymphatic speed of the colloid) studies was performed in all cases.


Absence of visualization of inguinal lymph nodes was observed in 14/15 cases of lymphedema and in 1/15 cases of lipedema (p<0.001). In the 13 cases of unilateral lymphedema, colloid half-life was higher in the pathologic limb than in the controlateral limb (230 +/- 92 vs 121 +/- 36 minutes, p<0.01) and lymphatic speed of the colloid was slower (6.91 +/- 0.86 vs 8.16 +/- 1.02 cm/min, p<0.001). The two patients with bilateral lymphedema had an increased half-life and decreased lymphatic speed of the colloid. Colloid half-life was significantly higher in lipedema than in controlateral limbs of lymphedema (154 +/- 23 vs 121 +/- 36 minutes, p<0.01) with no difference in lymphatic speed of the colloid. Colloid half-life was significantly higher in lymphedema than in lipedema (230 +/- 92 vs 154 +/- 23 minutes, p<0.01) and the lymphatic speed of the colloid was slower (6.91 +/- 0.86 vs 8.10 +/- 0.45 cm/min, p<0.001).


Lower limb lymphoscintigraphy showed lymphatic insufficiency in lipedema without morphologic abnormality as seen in lymphedema. Lymphoscintigraphy is not indispensable but is a useful tool when diagnosis is doubtful. Treatment is difficult and may include weight loss and possible surgery.

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