Morpho-physiological function and role of omental milky spots as omentum-associated lymphoid tissue (OALT) in the peritoneal cavity

  • M Shimotsuma
  • JW Shields
  • MW Simpson-Morgan
  • A Sakuyama
  • M Shirasu
  • A Hagiwara
  • T Takahashi


The morpho-physiological function and role of milky spots in the greater omentum are reviewed. These milky spots are composed of cellular aggregations of mesenchymal cells, mainly macrophages and lymphocytes, surrounding capillary convolutions termed omental glomeruli. Initial lymphatics of the omentum begin at the milky spots and drain into lymph collectors. The lymphatic capillaries in the omental milky spots take part in the absorption of various substances from the peritoneal cavity.

Omental milky spots probably act as the first line of defense in the peritoneal cavity and therefore are immunologically important. In human infants, most of the cells in these milky spots are macrophages (49%); less common are B lymphocytes (29%) and T lymphocytes (12%). Whereas macrophages form clusters near the peritoneal surface of the milky spots and are oriented toward the peritoneal cavity for migration, clusters of B and T lymphocytes are typically found in periarteriolar locations within the milky spots. This cell zonation facilitates phagocytosis and processing of circulating antigens and foreign bodies which emanate from the peritoneal cavity. During inflammation, the number and size of omental milky spots dramatically increase, and some develop germinal centers within the lymphatic follicles and produce antibodies. During intraperitoneal immunotherapy, the omental milky spots and their cellular elements may be activated by intraperitoneal administration of biological response modifiers, and thereby represent an important immunoregulatory system for the peritoneal cavity.

Omental milky spots are also closely linked to the dissemination of cancer cells. Thus, intraperitoneally inoculated experimental tumor cells selectively invade the milky spots and proliferate there to form tumor nodules. This occurrence is relevant to clinical practice where nodular metastases to the omentum are common.

Omental milky spots are analogous to regional lymph nodes and as such are the omentum-associated lymphoid tissues and participate in intraperitoneal immune reactions.

How to Cite:

Shimotsuma, M. & Shields, J. & Simpson-Morgan, M. & Sakuyama, A. & Shirasu, M. & Hagiwara, A. & Takahashi, T., (1993) “Morpho-physiological function and role of omental milky spots as omentum-associated lymphoid tissue (OALT) in the peritoneal cavity”, Lymphology 26(2), 90-101.

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Published on
07 Sep 1993
Peer Reviewed