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Lymphat Res Biol. 2012 Mar;10(1):25-9. doi: 10.1089/lrb.2011.0010. Epub 2012 Mar 14.

Quantification of lymphedema in a rat model by 3D-active contour segmentation by magnetic resonance imaging.

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Institute of Immunomorphology, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany.


Secondary lymphedema is a common complication after lymph node excision and radiotherapy in cancer therapy. Therapies are limited to symptomatic treatment. Adequate animal models to test potential surgical therapies are needed. The aim of this study was to induce a tissue environment in the hind leg of the rat similar to the one found in operated and irradiated patients. Quantification of edematous swelling was performed by an automatic 3D-contour segmentation (ITK- Snap ©) on MR- images. Swelling was induced by excision of superficial inguinal and popliteal lymph nodes and adjacent lymphatic vessels, followed by radiotherapy of the right groin with a single dose of 15 Gy. Four weeks after irradiation, the animals were examined with MRI of both hind legs. Fluid volumes around the joint line of the knee were calculated on T2-weighted images. We documented a significant higher volume of fluid in the legs following excision of lymph nodes and lymphatic vessels, combined with radiotherapy than in control legs.

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