What is lymphoscintigraphy?
Lymphoscintigraphy provides a view of the workings of the lymphatic system, which is a network of small channels, like arteries and veins, that transport the fluid and cells of the immune system through the lymph nodes and throughout the body. This fluid, called lymph, normally flows slowly from the periphery toward the center of the body and into the general circulation. If lymphatic flow is blocked, the areas of drainage that are affected can become swollen. A scintigram is a type of picture that uses an injected radioactive isotope that makes the lymphatic system visible to specialized cameras. Lymphoscintigraphy can be helpful for evaluating the lymphatic drainage pathway and is also important for identifying abnormal lymph nodes and planning a biopsy or surgery for suspicious areas. Generally, the radiation dose is similar to that of a standard x-ray examination.
What should I expect?
This procedure is done either the afternoon before or the morning of surgery. Lymphoscintigraphy is an outpatient procedure. No anesthesia is needed unless a lymph node biopsy is performed in the operating room immediately following lymphoscintigraphy in order to detect breast cancer. It is important that you avoid moving while the images are recorded.
Patients will receive 4 injections in the affected breast around the nipple area before surgery. The dye then travels to the sentinel node (which is the first lymph node within the lymphatic system) this makes it easier for the surgeon to locate to be able to biopsy. If the sentinel node is negative then the surgeon knows that the cancer has not spread to the lymphatic system. Most patients can resume regular activities immediately after the procedure.
how should i prepare for the procedure?
No special preparation is needed for lymphoscintigrapy.
How do i get the results?
Most patients undergo lymphoscintigraphy because their primary care physician or surgeon has recommended it. This study is an integral part of your surgical procedure.