Pathological steps of cancer-related lymphedema: Histological changes in the collecting lymphatic vessels after lymphadenectomy

Makoto Mihara, Hisako Hara, Yohei Hayashi, Mitsunaga Narushima, Takumi Yamamoto, Takeshi Todokoro, Takuya Lida, Naoya Sawamoto, Jun Araki, Kazuki Kikuchi, Noriyuki Murai, Taro Okitsu, Iori Kisu, Isao Koshima

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

174 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: To date, an electron microscopy study of the collecting lymphatic vessels has not been conducted to examine the early stages of lymphedema. However, such histological studies could be useful for elucidating the mechanism of lymphedema onset. The aim of this study was to clarify the changes occurring in collecting lymphatic vessels after lymphadenectomy. Methods: The study was conducted on 114 specimens from 37 patients who developed lymphedema of the lower limbs after receiving surgical treatment for gynecologic cancers and who consulted the University of Tokyo Hospital and affiliated hospitals from April 2009 to March 2011. Lymphatic vessels that were not needed for lymphatico venous anastomosis surgery were trimmed and subsequently examined using electron microscopy and light microscopy. Results: Based on macroscopic findings, the histochemical changes in the collecting lymphatic vessels were defined as follows: normal, ectasis, contraction, and sclerosis type (NECST). In the ectasis type, an increase in endolymphatic pressure was accompanied by a flattening of the lymphatic vessel endothelial cells. In the contraction type, smooth muscle cells were transformed into synthetic cells and promoted the growth of collagen fibers. In the sclerosis type, fibrous elements accounted for the majority of the components, the lymphatic vessels lost their transport and concentrating abilities, and the lumen was either narrowed or completely obstructed. Conclusions: The increase in pressure inside the collecting lymphatic vessels after lymphadenectomy was accompanied by histological changes that began before the onset of lymphedema.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere41126
JournalPloS one
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Jul 24

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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