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Neuroimaging of Cerebral Blood Flow and Sodium in Women with Lipedema


Objective: Lipedema is characterized by pain, fatigue, and excessive adipose tissue and sodium accumulation of the lower extremities. This case-control study aims to determine whether sodium or vascular dysfunction is present in the central nervous system. Methods: Brain magnetic resonance imaging was performed at 3 T in patients with lipedema (n = 15) and control (n = 18) participants matched for sex, age, race, and BMI. Standard anatomical imaging and intracranial angiography were applied to evaluate brain volume and vasculopathy, respectively; arterial spin labeling and sodium magnetic resonance imaging were applied to quantify cerebral blood flow (CBF) (milliliters per 100 grams of tissue/minute) and brain tissue sodium content (millimoles per liter), respectively. A Mann-Whitney U test (significance criteria P < 0.05) was applied to evaluate group differences. Results: No differences in tissue volume, white matter hyperintensities, intracranial vasculopathy, or tissue sodium content were observed between groups. Gray matter CBF was elevated (P = 0.03) in patients with lipedema (57.2 ± 9.6 mL per 100 g/min) versus control participants (49.8 ± 9.1 mL per 100 g/min). Conclusions: Findings provide evidence that brain sodium and tissue fractions are similar between patients with lipedema and control participants and that patients with lipedema do not exhibit abnormal radiological indicators of intracranial vasculopathy or ischemic injury. Potential explanations for elevated CBF are discussed in the context of the growing literature on lipedema symptomatology and vascular dysfunction.

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