Liver lymphatic anatomy and role in systemic lymphatic disease

Christopher L. Smith, Mandi Liu, Madhumitha Saravanan, Aaron G. Dewitt, David M. Biko, Erin M. Pinto, Fernando A. Escobar, Ganesh Krishnamurthy, Jefferson N. Brownell, Petar Mamula, Andrew C. Glatz, Matthew J. Gillespie, Michael L. O’Byrne, Chitra Ravishankar, Jonathan J. Rome, Yoav Dori

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Objectives: To characterize hepatic to systemic lymphatic connections in patients with systemic lymphatic disease using intra-hepatic lymphangiography and to compare outcomes after lymphatic intervention. Methods: In this retrospective study, patients with intra-hepatic lymphangiography from May 2014 – April 2019 at our institution were included. Imaging review was performed and hepatic lymphatic connections and flow patterns were characterized. Clinical data were reviewed and comparisons between patients undergoing lymphatic intervention with or without abnormal hepatic lymphatics were performed. Results: During the study period, 105 patients underwent intra-hepatic lymphangiography. Primary clinical presentation included ascites (19/105), chylothorax (27/105), plastic bronchitis (PB) (17/105), and protein losing enteropathy (PLE) (42/105). Five categories of hepatic lymphatic connections and flow patterns were identified (%): normal (25%, 26/105), hepatoperitoneal (12%, 13/105), hepatopulmonary (10.5%, 11/105), hepatomesenteric (7.5%, 8/105), and hepatoduodenal (41%, 43/105) with four patients having more than one abnormal pattern. A comparison between clinical presentation and imaging category revealed an increased likelihood of having ascites with hepatoperitoneal (p <.0001), chylothorax/PB with hepatopulmonary (p =.01), and PLE with hepatoduodenal (p <.001) connections. Seventy-six patients had a lymphatic intervention, 24% with normal, and 76% with abnormal liver lymphatics. There was no difference in length of hospital stay or mortality between the two groups, but there was a prolonged time to symptom resolution (p =.006) and persistent symptoms after 6 months (5% vs 44%, p =.002) in the group with abnormal liver lymphatics. Conclusion: We identified five liver lymphatic imaging categories with a substantial correlation to presenting lymphatic disease. Abnormal imaging patterns correlated with increased morbidity. Evaluation of liver lymphatics should be considered in patients with a systemic lymphatic disease if central lymphatic imaging is normal. Key Points: • We identified five liver lymphatic imaging patterns: normal, hepatoperitoneal, hepatomesenteric, hepatopulmonary, and hepatoduodenal. • Imaging patterns were correlated with disease presentation (normal – chylothorax/PB, hepatoperitoneal – ascites/chylothorax, hepatopulmonary – chylothorax/PB, hepatoduodenal – PLE). • Abnormal imaging patterns correlated with increased morbidity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-121
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Radiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • Ascites
  • Chylothorax
  • Liver
  • Lymphatic diseases
  • Lymphography


Dive into the research topics of 'Liver lymphatic anatomy and role in systemic lymphatic disease'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this