US Evaluation of Axillary Lymphadenopathy Following COVID-19 Vaccination: A Prospective Longitudinal Study

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Background: Both temporal changes in imaging characteristics of lymphadenopathy on US scans after COVID-19 vaccination and expected duration of radiologically evident lymphadenopathy remain uncertain. Purpose: To longitudinally evaluate COVID-19 vaccine–associated lymphadenopathy on axillary US scans at various time intervals in both messenger (mRNA) and vector vaccine recipients. Materials and Methods: This prospective cohort study was conducted between March 2021 and January 2022. The participants were asymptomatic women without breast cancer who had received COVID-19 vaccination. Serial follow-up US was performed in women with lymphadenopathy. The following variables were assessed: cortical thickness, number of lymph nodes, morphologic characteristics, and Doppler signal. Temporal changes in cortical thickness and number of lymph nodes during follow-up were assessed using a linear mixed model. Results: Ninety-one women with lymphadenopathy in the vaccinated arm had undergone a total of 215 serial US examinations (mean age, 44 years 6 13 [SD]). Fifty-one participants had received a vector vaccine (ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine) and 40 had received an mRNA vaccine (BNT162b2 vaccine [n = 37] and mRNA-1273 vaccine [n = 3]). Three of the 91 women were lost to follow-up; thus, 88 women underwent serial US. Complete resolution of axillary lymphadenopathy was observed at a median of 6 weeks after vaccination (range, 4–7 weeks) in 26% of women (23 of 88). Among 49 women with follow-up US at a median of 12 weeks after vaccination (range, 8–14 weeks), persistent lymphadenopathy was observed in 25 (51%). During the follow-up period, the cortical thickness gradually decreased (P , .001) over time regardless of vaccine type; however, values were higher in recipients of the mRNA vaccine than in recipients of the vector vaccine (P = .02). Conclusion: COVID-19 vaccine–associated axillary lymphadenopathy frequently persisted for more than 6 weeks on US scans. Lymphadenopathy should be interpreted considering vaccine type and time elapsed since vaccination. Follow-up US examination at least 12 weeks after vaccination may be reasonable, particularly for recipients of the messenger RNA vaccine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-53
Number of pages8
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 2022


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