There are some diagnostic or imaging tests that can be performed to help with diagnosis, however, a physical exam and thorough history of symptoms are typically the key parts of diagnosis and most experts use history and physical examination alone to make the diagnosis.
Imaging technologies such MRI, CT, or ultrasounds can be used to see if there is a collection of extracellular fluid in the tissue. Bio-impedance spectroscopy looks at how the tissue conducts a small, imperceptible electrical current and can also be used to detect extracellular fluid. Bio-impedance can also be used to detect patients in Stage 0 Subclinical phase, when their physical exam will be unremarkable but when the condition is highly reversible. Lymphoscintigraphy is a type of imaging done at some centers that uses nuclear medicine to see lymph vessels and lymph nodes. It can show if your lymphatic system has any abnormalities in lymph flow or structure.
What factors should be considered to help diagnose a patient with lymphedema?
Diagnosis of Lymphedema
- History and physical exam
- Bioimpedance testing
- Soft Tissue Imaging (MRI, CT and some types of ultrasound)
- Lymphatic Imaging (Lymphoscintigraphy)
- Limb volume measurements
- Biomechanical property (tonometry, tissue bioelectric constant)
- Genetic testing