Objectives: Information regarding the depth of lymphatic vessel is important for lymphatic surgeons because rapid identification of functional lymphatic vessels and veins is necessary to perform good lymphaticovenular anastomosis, which is a surgical procedure for lymphedema cases. Photoacoustic lymphangiography (PAL) may be useful for such identification because it allows the assessment of the depth of lymphatic vessels. Thus, we aimed to measure the lymphatic vessel depth using images obtained by PAL. Methods: This study included healthy individuals and patients with lymphedema. In all participants, indocyanine green dissolved in dextrose was injected subcutaneously into the first and fourth webs of the foot and the lateral malleolus, and PAL was performed on the medial side of the lower leg. The lymphatic vessel depth was measured from the ankle joint, 10 cm above the medial malleolus, and 20 cm above the medial malleolus on PAL in the cross-sectional view and was compared between the participant groups. Results: The healthy group (mean age, 43.3 ± 12.9 years) included 21 limbs of 4 male and 16 female healthy individuals (bilateral limbs of 1 patient were considered). The lymphedema group (mean age, 62.0 ± 11.7 years) included 17 limbs of 3 male and 14 female patients with lymphedema. The average lymphatic vessel depths from the ankle joint, 10 cm above the medial malleolus, and 20 cm above the medial malleolus were 2.6, 4.7, and 5.6 mm in the healthy group and 3.6, 7.3, and 7.4 mm in the lymphedema group, respectively. Lymphatic vessels were significantly deeper in the lymphedema group than in the healthy group at all measurement locations. Conclusions: Using PAL, we determined the lymphatic vessel depth in living bodies. By searching for the lymphatic vessels based on our findings, even surgeons who are relatively inexperienced with lymphatic surgery may be able to identify functional lymphatic vessels more efficiently.
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