Near-infrared imaging of lymphatic drainage of injected indocyanine green (ICG) has emerged as a new technology for clinical imaging of lymphatic architecture and quantification of vessel function, yet the imaging capabilities of this approach have yet to be quantitatively characterized. We seek to quantify its capabilities as a diagnostic tool for lymphatic disease. Imaging is performed in a tissue phantom for sensitivity analysis and in hairless rats for in vivo testing. To demonstrate the efficacy of this imaging approach to quantifying immediate functional changes in lymphatics, we investigate the effects of a topically applied nitric oxide (NO) donor glyceryl trinitrate ointment. Premixing ICG with albumin induces greater fluorescence intensity, with the ideal concentration being 150 μg / mL ICG and 60 g / L albumin. ICG fluorescence can be detected at a concentration of 150 μg / mL as deep as 6 mm with our system, but spatial resolution deteriorates below 3 mm, skewing measurements of vessel geometry. NO treatment slows lymphatic transport, which is reflected in increased transport time, reduced packet frequency, reduced packet velocity, and reduced effective contraction length. NIR imaging may be an alternative to invasive procedures measuring lymphatic function in vivo in real time.