Vanderbilt University
Institute of Imaging Science

Rachelle Crescenzi, Ph.D.

Research Instructor

Contact Information
(615) 343-7182


My research interests revolve around understanding how lymphatic circulation is involved in regulating tissue sodium, protein, and fat accumulation in human health and disease. To this end, I have worked to improve magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) methods for measuring lymphatic vascular function and sodium in the body noninvasively. I'm also interested in the biological basis of sodium MRI signal, and related MR relaxometry (T2 and T1rho) and spectral imaging methods including chemical-exchange saturation transfer (CEST) MRI.


My research is focused on improving the lives of patients with understudied diseases of the lymphatics. My current research projects seek to provide noninvasive molecular MRI tools to address clinical needs for 1) objective diagnostic criteria for lipedema, 2) risk assessment for lymphedema and fibrosis secondary to lymph node removal, and 3) radiologic markers of salt sensitive blood pressure. The relevance of lymphatic insufficiencies to portend risk for obesity and salt-sensitive hypertension is also being explored in pre-clinical and clinical studies.

These research projects are carried out in collaboration with scientists and physicians within the VUIIS Center for Translational Vascular and Physiological Imaging, VUMC Radiology, Vanderbilt Dayani Center for Health and Wellness, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute, and Vanderbilt Translational and Clinical Cardiovascular Research Center.

I'm interested in collaborating to test emerging lymphatic therapies that may benefit from noninvasive imaging measures of improvements in tissue health. For more information regarding methods, current developments, and for patients who may be interested in learning more about our research studies, please contact me at


Crescenzi R, Donahue PMC, Braxton VG, Scott AO, Donahue MJ. 3.0T relaxation time measurements of human lymph nodes in adults with and without lymphatic insufficiency: implications for magnetic resonance lymphatic imaging. NMR in Biomedicine. 2018; e4009.

Crescenzi R, Marton A, Donahue PM, Mahany HB, Lants SK, Wang P, Beckman JA, Donahue MJ, Titze J. Tissue Sodium Content is Elevated in the Skin and Subcutaneous Adipose Tissue in Women with Lipedema. Obesity. 2018 Feb;26(2):310-317. doi: 10.1002/oby.22090. PMID: 29280322.

Crescenzi R, Donahue PM, Hartley KG, Desai AA, Scott AO, Braxton V, Mahany HB, Lants SK, Donahue MJ. Lymphedema Evaluation Using Noninvasive 3T MR Lymphangiography. Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging. 2017 Nov;46(5):1349-1360. doi: 10.1002/jmri.25670. PMID: 28245075.

Donahue PM, Crescenzi R, Scott AO, Braxton V, Desai AA, Smith SA, Jordi J, Meszoely IM, Grau AM, Kauffmann RM, Sweeting RS, Spotanski K, Ridner SH, Donahue MJ. Bilateral Changes in Deep Tissue Environment After Manual Lymphatic Drainage in Patients with Breast Cancer Treatment-Related Lymphedema. Lymphatic Research and Biology. 2017 Mar;15(1):45-56. doi: 10.1089/lrb.2016.0020. PMID: 28323572.