Little is known about the pathophysiology of postsurgical lymphedema, and there is no complete cure. A recent study estimated the incidence of lymphedema at around 5% in patients who underwent sentinel lymph node biopsy and 16% in those who underwent axillary lymph node dissection. Estimated 400,000–600,000 breast cancer survivors are affected by this devastating problem in the United States alone.
Recently, axillary reverse mapping technique has been used to preserve the upper extremity lymphatic drainage during axillary lymph node dissection for breast cancer therapy. The assumption is that lymphatic pathways draining the upper extremity and the breast are independent, and that the upper arm lymphatic drainage is not involved with metastatic disease arising from the breast. The gap exists in our knowledge about the exact relationship between the breast and upper limb lymphatic channels and nodes.
We have developed a novel radiographic technique to delineate the lymphatic vessels in cadavers.