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Breast Cancer-Related Lymphedema: Magnetic Resonance Imaging Evidence of Sparing Centered Along the Cephalic VeinFunding This study received support from a RSNA R&E Resident Research Grant RR1820.
Background A distinct pattern of edema distribution is seen in breast cancer-related lymphedema. The area of edema sparing has not been characterized in relation to anatomy. Specifically, alternate lymphatic pathways are known to travel adjacent to the cephalic vein. Our study aims to define the location of edema sparing in the arm relative to the cephalic vein.
Methods A retrospective review of patients who underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) between March 2017 and September 2018 was performed. Variables including patient demographics, arm volumes, and MRI data were extracted. MRIs were reviewed to define the amount of sparing, or angle of sparing, and the deviation between the center of sparing and the cephalic vein, or angle of deviation.
Results A total of 34 consecutive patients were included in the analysis. Five patients demonstrated circumferential edema (no sparing) and 29 patients demonstrated areas of edema sparing. Advanced age (69.7 vs. 57.6 years) and greater excess arm volume (40.4 vs. 20.8%) correlated with having circumferential edema without sparing (p = 0.003). In 29 patients with areas of edema sparing, the upper arm demonstrated the greatest angle of sparing (183.2 degrees) and the narrowest in the forearm (99.9 degrees; p = 0.0032). The mean angle of deviation to the cephalic vein measured 3.2, –0.1, and –5.2 degrees at the upper arm, elbow, and forearm, respectively.
Conclusion Our study found that the area of edema sparing, when present, is centered around the cephalic vein. This may be explained by the presence of the Mascagni-Sappey (M-S) pathway as it is located alongside the cephalic vein. Our findings represent a key springboard for additional research to better elucidate any trends between the presence of the M-S pathway, areas of sparing, and severity of lymphedema.
Received: 08 May 2020
Accepted: 23 November 2020
31 January 2021 (online)
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