Although a multitude of operations exist for the treatment of lymphedema, none is highly successful. An experimental model that reliably and easily produces chronic lymphedema in an extremity would be useful to study treatments in a controlled and comparative manner and would enhance our understanding of the physiology and treatment of lymphedema. Many models that simulate clinical lymphedema have been described, but they suffer from cumbersome protocols, high laboratory costs, and an inconsistent yield of permanent lymphedema. We describe an experimental model for chronic lymphedema in the lower extremity of the rat that creates a lymphatic block in the groin induced by radiation treatment and one operation—surgical division of the superficial and deep lymphatics. All animals develop stable chronic lymphedema of the lower extremity within days of operation, with swelling that persists for at least 9 months. A mortality rate of 8 percent was associated with this technique. Methods for quantification of limb swelling are described, as is analysis of the lymphatic block by lymphoscintigraphic imaging of lymph channels and nodes. This model has the advantages of simplicity of technique, cost-effective use of rodent subjects, reproducibility of lymphedema, and quantification of results.
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