The lymphatic system functions to drain tissue fluid, plasma proteins and other cellular debris back into the blood stream, and is also involved in immune defence. Once this collection of substances enters the lymphatic vessels, it is known as lymph. Lymph is subsequently filtered by lymph nodes and directed into the venous system. This article will explore the anatomy of lymphatic drainage throughout the head and neck, and how this is relevant clinically.
Lymph nodes are small bean shaped glands found throughout the body, including the head and neck area. They are often the first place cancer cells spread to when they break away from a tumour. Surgery to remove the lymph nodes in the neck is called a neck dissection. Surgeons don't routinely do a neck dissection on everyone because it can have long term side effects. They have to consider carefully who will benefit from it. Before your operation, your surgeon might know there is cancer in your lymph nodes. In this case, your surgeon will suggest removing the lymph nodes closest to the cancer.
Medically reviewed by Drugs. Last updated on May 4, Lymphedema is the buildup of fluid called lymph in the tissues under your skin when something blocks its normal flow. This causes swelling, most commonly in an arm or leg. Lymph normally does an important job for your body.
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