A lipoma is a non-cancerous growth of fat cells under the skin. Lipomas can occur anywhere in the body but are most commonly found on the shoulders, neck, chest, arms and the back.
Lipomas commonly occur in middle age, affecting one in 100 people. The cause of a lipoma is unknown, but it can be triggered by a minor injury and in some people it develops as an inherited condition called familial multiple lipomatosis with the occurrence of more than one lipoma.
Lipomas are small in size (about 1-3cm) that grow very slowly and generally do not cause pain or any other symptoms. But if developed deep inside the body, a lipoma can press against an organ or nerve, causing related symptoms (example – lipoma of the intestine can cause bowel obstruction).
A lipoma can be easily diagnosed by its appearance and the feel of it on pressing. It is smooth, soft and rubbery that may move about under the skin. But, sometimes an ultrasound scan, MRI or CT and biopsy (sample of fatty lump is taken for lab examination) may be performed to rule out liposarcoma (cancer of fat tissue).
Lipomas are not cancerous and therefore do not require treatment, however, they may be surgically removed if symptoms develop. These include pain, tenderness, enlargement, or foul smelling discharge from the lipoma, presence of swelling and infection or functional impairment caused by deep lying lipomas.
Surgical excision (removal) of lipoma
Excision is a simple out-patient or in office surgical procedure for lipomas which is performed under local anesthesia. Your surgeon will make an incision in your skin and excise or remove the lipoma. The skin is then closed using sutures and you can see a small scar once the wound is healed.
For deep lying lipomas, the surgery may be performed under general anesthesia in an operating room.
Surgical excision of lipoma is generally a safe procedure, but a few complications can occur if lipomas are large and deep inside the tissue. These complications include bruising, wound infection and injury to blood vessels, nerves or muscles.