A lipoma is a growth of fat cells in a thin, fibrous capsule usually found just below the skin. Lipomas are the most common noncancerous soft-tissue growth.
Lipomas are found most often on the torso, neck, upper thighs, upper arms, and armpits, but they can occur almost anywhere in the body. One or more lipomas may be present at the same time.
Lipoma removal surgery often only requires local anesthesia and can be performed as an out-patient procedure, but this depends on the size and number of the lipomas and the method of removal.
The skin is incised over the lipoma, and the fatty tissue is meticulously dissected away. The dissection technique may, in selected cases, be combined with a “press and squeeze” method. The surgeon places the incision directly over the lump and orients it in such a way that it gets hidden by natural wrinkles and creases of the skin. It’s analogous to delivering a baby through a small access area. After the lipoma has been completely removed from under the skin, the incision will be meticulously sutured closed with dissolving sutures.
People who have a family relative with one or more lipomas have a higher risk of developing this condition. Lipomas are also more likely to occur in people aged between 40 and 60 years old. Other risk factors for developing a lipoma may include:
- High cholesterol
- Liver disease
- Glucose intolerance
Liposuction is a minimally invasive method that involves removal of the fatty tissue lump by making a tiny incision at the site. The surgeon may even decide to place the incision in a remote hidden site. Liposuction is more commonly used for removal lipomas on the face and other visible areas.
When should you consider removing a lipoma?
Lipomas are usually harmless, so most people do not need to have surgery to remove them. People may want to remove a lipoma that:
- is cancerous
- is large, impinges on movement, or growing quickly
- causes bothersome symptoms, such as pain and discomfort
- interferes with normal body functions
- causes distress for cosmetic reasons
- the doctor is unable to confirm is a lipoma rather than another type of tumor
Dr. Michael K. Kim can often remove a lipoma surgically. One method is to make a small cut in the skin and then squeeze out the lipoma. The person is usually under local anesthesia during the procedure and should be able to return home on the same day.
That said, Dr. Kim may need to make a more significant incision to remove larger lipomas entirely. It is also possible to remove some lipomas using liposuction. To do this, the doctor will need to cut into the lump and insert a thin, hollow tube through the incision. They will then use the tube to suck the mass of fat cells out of the body.
After surgery, Dr. Kim will usually send the lipoma material to a laboratory for analysis. These types of operations will often only leave a small scar once the wound has healed.
Patients may return home immediately following their lipoma removal but should expect to return for a post-operative visit to ensure your treatment site is healing properly. No matter the technique used to excise the lipoma, Dr. Kim will typically sent out a sample to a laboratory for testing, ensuring the fatty tissue is not cancerous. Although benign lipomas are not cancerous, strict precautions are always made to ensure the safety and health of each patient.
What are the pros and cons of lipoma removal surgery?
- Surgically removing a lipoma prevents it from becoming larger.
- The removed tissue is large enough to biopsy and confirm that there’s nothing more serious going on. Sometimes doctors mistake liposarcoma (a malignant tumor) for deep seated lipoma, so removing it proactively could save your life.
- Once the growth is gone, you’ll likely feel more comfortable and be more satisfied with your appearance.
- There’s a small risk of infection or irritation at the removal site.
- The procedure will result in a small scar, so consider the location if that’s a concern.
- There is a chance of lipoma recurrence in the same site or surrounding tissue.