Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you're at risk of lymphedema — for instance, if you've recently had cancer surgery involving your lymph nodes — your doctor may diagnose lymphedema based on your signs and symptoms.

If the cause of your lymphedema isn't as obvious, your doctor may order imaging tests to get a look at your lymph system. Tests may include:

  • MRI scan. Using a magnetic field and radio waves, an MRI produces 3-D, high-resolution images.
  • CT scan. This X-ray technique produces detailed, cross-sectional images of your body's structures. CT scans can reveal blockages in the lymphatic system.
  • Doppler ultrasound. This variation of the conventional ultrasound looks at blood flow and pressure by bouncing high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound) off red blood cells. Ultrasound can help find obstructions.
  • Radionuclide imaging of your lymphatic system (lymphoscintigraphy). During this test you're injected with a radioactive dye and then scanned by a machine. The resulting images show the dye moving through your lymph vessels, highlighting blockages.
Oct. 23, 2014

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