Cisterna chyli

Cisterna chyli Definition

Cisterna chyli is a dilated lymph channel that is generally located opposite the 1st and the 2nd lumbar vertebrae. It marks the starting point of the thoracic duct. It is also known by the name of ‘Receptaculum Chyli’ that appears as a saccular area of the lymphatic and dilation channels.

Cisterna chyli Appearance

It is a large vessel that measures approximately 6 cm (2.4 inches) in length. The appearance of Cisterna Chyli is like a sac-like elongated structure sitting at the junction of the various liver, lumbar, intestinal and descending intercostal lymphatic trunks. The chyli stretches 5-7 right in the caudocephalad axis.

Cisterna chyli Function

The main function of Cisterna chyli is that it receives and temporarily stores lymph, the clear body tissue fluid, as it traverses upwards the body. It is one of the two reservoirs that contain lymph as well as other bodily fluids that can be found in the lymphatic system.

The upper part of the Cisterna Chyli stretches to the thoracic duct and drains in the left subclavian vein. It also stores lymph as received from the lower extremities, non-alimentary viscera and the abdominal wall. In other words, Cisterna Chyli is one of the two reservoirs of body fluid and lymph fluids.

Injury to the Cisterna Chyli may lead to swelling and pain. If not treated on time, it may lead to threatening conditions of the patients. What are the symptoms, causes and treatments for Cisternal Chyli impairment?  Read on.

Cisterna Chyli Injury- Symptoms

The swelling and blockage of the Cisterna Chyli are one of the major impairments caused to this sac-like structure. The chyli controls the flow of lymph and any kind of injury or leakage of the chyli may result in complications. You will notice these symptoms if the Cisterna Chyli is affected:

  • Swelling of the Cisterna Chyli that causes swelling in the lower abdomen and other body parts.
  • The excruciating pain felt in the lower abdominal region of the body and other parts as well.
  • Disruption in lymphatic flow as proved in diagnostic tests.
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Formation of a complicated lymphatic fistula and chylous ascites that get captured during diagnosis.

Cisterna Chyli Injury- Causes

  • Infections triggered in the region where you find the Cisterna Chyli that lead to over-accumulation of lymph.
  • Injury or internal trauma to the chyli
  • Leakage of lymph from the Cisterna Chyli causes endema
  • Neoplastic or traumatic blockage in the Cisterna Chyli

Cisterna Chyli Injury- Diagnosis

Doctors perform a kind of test, called Lymphangiogram that uses contrast dye which is injected into your veins so that it reaches the affected areas to help the lymph vessels and nodes appear clearly visible in pictures. Also, X-ray images and imaging tests offer distinct pictures of blockages in the lymphatic drainage system.

Cisterna Chyli- Treatments

Before getting treated by your doctor, there are few home care measures that you should follow. They include applying cold compression on the affected areas like abdomen, limbs etc., that have swollen. Wearing compression garments as suggested by your doctor is another way of treating the condition effectively.

A spree of hand, abdomen and leg exercises prove highly effective. Walking, swimming, doing yoga and practising low-impact aerobics also prove to be helpful. The exercises help in contraction by putting pressure on the lymph nodes, thus allowing lymphatic fluids to move freely. This helps in reducing swelling.

If compression therapy or exercises are not enough, patients may require manual lymph drainage. This allows the lymphatic fluid in the impaired Cisterna Chyli to move through the vessels. Massage therapies done by qualified professionals prove to be another effective way of curing the patient.


The impact of Cysterna Chyli and lymphatic obstruction varies from person to person. However, in most cases, the doctor may have to deal with swelling and pain. While most people suffer from permanent endema, some may notice swelling only after a certain period of time. Medical attention is inevitable in severe cases.

Cisterna chyli Pictures

You will find these images useful in understanding the appearance of this lymphatic structure.

Picture of Cisterna chyli

Picture 1 –  Cisterna chyli

Image of Cisterna chyli

Picture 2 – Cisterna chyli Image


Last updated on July 5th, 2018 at 5:46 pm

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