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Pathophysiology of the Lymphatic System in Patients With Heart Failure

, Stanley G. Rockson, Daniel Burkhoff

Abstract: The removal of interstitial fluid from the tissues is performed exclusively by the lymphatic system. Tissue edema in congestive heart failure occurs only when the lymphatic system fails or is overrun by fluid leaving the vascular space across the wall of the capillaries into the interstitial space. This process is driven by Starling forces determined by hydrostatic and osmotic pressures and organ-specific capillary permeabilities to proteins of different sizes. In this review, we summarize current knowledge of the generation of lymph in different organs, the mechanics by which lymph is returned to the circulation, and the consequences of the inadequacy of lymph flow. We review recent advances in imaging techniques that have allowed for new research, diagnostic, and therapeutic approaches to the lymphatic system. Finally, we review how efforts to increase lymph flow have demonstrated potential as a viable therapeutic approach for refractory heart failure.
Keywords: MR lymphangiography / Starling equation / heart failure / lymphatic system

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