Lymphangiectasia Workup

Updated: Apr 09, 2021
  • Author: Robert A Schwartz, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
  • Print

Other Tests

Immunohistochemistry studies are important in differentiating lymphangiomas from hemangiomas in difficult cases. Factor VIII–related antigen testing demonstrates positive results in the endothelial cells of hemangiomas but negative or weakly positive results in the endothelium of lymphangiomas. Ulex europaeus I testing results are positive in the endothelial cells of lymphangiectases and hemangiomas. Immunoperoxide staining with QBEnd10 (anti-CD34) antibodies shows positive reactivity results only in endothelial cells lining the blood vessels of the dermis.



With regard to skin biopsy, the diagnosis of lymphangiectasia is primarily based on clinical history and conventional light microscopy findings.


Histologic Findings

On microscopic examination, lymphangiectases are characterized by large, dilated lymph vessels lined by a single layer of endothelial cells. They are usually found in the papillary dermis and the reticular dermis. Involvement in the deeper dermis is rare. The overlying epidermis is usually associated with acanthosis and hyperkeratosis but is less marked than in angiokeratomas. At times, acquired lymphangiectases grow above the level of adjacent skin.

Lymphangiectases lack the subcutaneous muscle-coated cisternae characteristic of lymphangioma circumscriptum. Although no specific histologic criteria exist with which to differentiate lymphangioma circumscriptum from lymphangiectasia, some believe that the absence of subcutaneous cisternae in lymphangiectases is a true histologic difference and that this finding reflects the difference in the pathogenesis of both disorders.