Lipoma Removal: Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Recovery

Lipomas are slow-growing, fatty lumps that develop in the space between the skin and muscles. Somewhat doughy in texture and usually under two inches wide, they tend to be harmless, so lipoma removal is not always necessary. If you press on one, it will move easily. Lipomas seldom are painful, unless they touch nearby nerve endings or contain an abundance of blood vessels.

Lipomas can appear anywhere on the body that fat collects. In most people, they form on the arms, thighs, shoulders, back, abdomen, and neck. They can occur at any age, but usually develop in people age 40 to 60.

They don’t develop into cancer and don’t cause any problems, but you might want to talk to your doctor about lipoma removal because of their appearance. Most people have lipomas removed through surgical extraction, but other removal methods exist, like steroid injections and laser therapy.

Causes and Risk Factors of Lipoma Development

There is no known cause of lipomas, but a person’s risk of developing lipomas increases if one of their parents had them. Also, certain conditions are accompanied by the growth of lipomas, including:

  • Gardner syndrome
  • Adiposis dolorosa, also called Dercum’s disease
  • Madelung disease
  • Familial multiple lipomatosis, also called hereditary multiple lipomatosis

Diagnosing a Lipoma

A dermatologist, who specializes in treating the skin, nails, hair, and mucous membranes, will generally diagnose lipoma through a physical examination. Lipomas are usually easy to move around and have a rubbery feel, unlike cysts, which tend to feel firmer and not give so easily to the touch. Your doctor will ask you questions about the lump, such as how long you have noticed it, whether it’s painful, and if you’ve noticed any changes in its appearance or the way it feels.

It is important to have lipomas looked at because they can resemble a rare type of cancerous growth called a liposarcoma.

Imaging Tests for Lipoma Detection

Doctors might use imaging tests when diagnosing larger lipomas, or lumps that are deeper than usual or press against nerves or other tissues. These tests include:

  • X-ray
  • MRI
  • CT scan
  • Ultrasound

Biopsy and Laboratory Tests

Your dermatologist might also decide to take a biopsy and test the sample. This might be employed to make sure it is not cancerous. You may receive a topical anesthetic to dull any discomfort from the biopsy needle.

Surgical Lipoma Removal

A dermatologist might recommend surgical removal of a lipoma when the lump:

  • Keeps growing
  • Causes pain
  • Sits beneath deeper tissue
  • Affects your appearance
  • Changes in shape or size

After surgical removal, there is little chance that the lipoma will grow back. However, a new lipoma might form elsewhere. If a large lipoma is not completely removed during surgery, it may eventually return to its original size. Most surgeons advise repeating lipoma removal surgery if a lump returns.

Excision Procedure to Remove a Lipoma

This surgical procedure involves making a small incision on the top of the lipoma. A curette is used to cut out the lump away from the surrounding tissue, and a pressure dressing is applied to stop any bleeding and minimize bruising bruising. A local anesthesia is used for this type of lipoma surgery. This is done as an outpatient procedure that does not require stitches and usually takes about an hour to perform. It might leave a small scar.

Liposuction for Lipoma Removal

Liposuction can be used to remove lipomas from spots where scarring is undesirable. However, this procedure removes only the fatty tissue and not the lipoma capsule, which increases the likelihood that the lipoma will reappear.

Non-Surgical Lipoma Treatments

For smaller lipomas that don’t sit below deep tissue, doctors may recommend non-surgical treatment. Using a non-surgical treatment eliminates the possibility of scarring and bruising.

  • Steroid injections. Steroid injections can be used to shrink lipomas, especially smaller ones. The steroids break down the fatty tissue.
  • Lipoma dissolving injections. In this non-invasive alternative to surgery, a substance is injected into the lipoma to dissolve the fat cells. A series of injections might be needed to fully reduce the lump.
  • Laser therapy. Laser treatment is an efficient and safe option that avoids scarring.

Guidance on Lipomas

Florida Medical Clinic Orlando Health’s team of dermatologists provide an array of cutting-edge procedures and services, all the consultation and care you might need concerning lipomas. From the meticulous analysis of skin cultures to the intricate precision of punch biopsies, every step we take ensures your utmost care. Our doctors leave no stone unturned in their pursuit of your health and happiness.

Meet Dr. Maria I. Hicks, MD, FAAD

Dr. Maria I. Hicks, is a naturalized U.S. citizen who was raised in Medellin, Colombia. She has been living and working in the Tampa area since 2011.

Her fluency in both English and Spanish allows her to connect with a wide range of patients. She is driven to help her patients understand what they are going through and develop solutions to their skin issues and hair loss problems. Her biggest passions outside of the medical office are spending time with friends and family, dancing, traveling, and partaking in community events.



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