Doctors conducting surgery


A lipoma is a round or oval-shaped mass of tissue that grows just under the skin. It is formed of fat, is readily moved when touched, and often doesn’t hurt

Scoliosis Quiz on the Lipoma page
Pain Quiz on the Lipoma page

3 percent of individuals with progressive curvature may eventually experience severe problems that can include scoliosis and back pain, spinal problems, and nerve compression causing numbness, weakness, and leg pain.

Spinal Cord Lipoma

A lipoma is a round or oval-shaped mass of tissue that grows just under the skin. It is formed of fat, is readily moved when touched, and often doesn’t hurt. These tumors can form anywhere on the body, but the back, chest, arms, shoulders, and neck are where they most frequently occur. Lipomas are benign soft tissue tumors.

Developmental abnormalities known as spinal cord lipomas can appear as a simple little fatty tumor linked to the distal spinal cord or as complicated as malformations affecting all spinal systems. In a few instances, the tumor is fully intra-spinal and only penetrates the subcutaneous tissues through a small opening in the posterior components of the spine. It is known as a lipomyelomeningocele when subcutaneous tissues and a cavity holding cerebrospinal fluid are involved.


This is a congenital defect linked to spina bifida. These lesions afflict females 1.5 times more frequently than men and are visible in the first few months or years of life. A lipomyelomeningocele is a huge mass of fat cells. It originates in the spinal canal and protrudes under the skin of the child’s back through the space between the vertebrae as a big, uneven lump of soft tissue at the base of the lower back or in the buttocks from birth.

Questions and Answers

What is a Spinal Lipoma

A spinal lipoma is a benign (non-cancerous) tumor composed of fatty tissue that forms in the spinal area. It is typically a slow-growing mass that can occur within the spinal canal or in the surrounding soft tissues of the spine.

What are the symptoms of a Spinal Lipoma

Spinal lipomas are often asymptomatic, meaning they do not cause noticeable symptoms. However, if the lipoma grows large enough or exerts pressure on nearby nerves or the spinal cord, it can lead to symptoms such as back pain, numbness, tingling, weakness, or changes in bowel or bladder function. The specific symptoms may vary depending on the location and size of the lipoma.

Should a Spinal Lipoma always be removed?

Not all spinal lipomas require immediate removal. The decision to remove a spinal lipoma depends on factors such as its size, location, symptoms, and potential risks. If the lipoma is small, asymptomatic, and not causing any functional or neurological deficits, it may be monitored regularly without intervention. However, if the lipoma is large, causing significant symptoms or neurological complications, or there are concerns about its growth or potential risks, surgical removal may be recommended to alleviate symptoms and prevent further complications.

Characteristics and Symptoms of a Spinal Lipoma:

More than 90% of patients will have a clear soft tissue swell across the lower back’s spine. These lesions are not painful and are covered by skin. Although neurological function normally declines over a period of months to years, patients may begin to lose it as soon as a few weeks after birth. Typical neurological symptoms include weakness, incontinence of the bladder and intestines, and weakness. The lower extremities may atrophy as a result of the weakness, which may be symmetrical or asymmetrical. Pain in older teens and adults that radiates and is often difficult to define causes them to visit a doctor. Also, these patients experience minimal back movement.

  • Lipomas in the spine typically present as soft, rubbery masses that can appear beneath the skin or within deeper layers.
  • They are usually painless and slow-growing.
  • Doctors locate Lipomas in different regions of the spine, including the cervical (neck), thoracic (mid-back), or lumbar (lower back) areas.
  • Depending on their location and size, lipomas in the spine may cause symptoms such as back pain, stiffness, or neurological complications if they compress nearby nerves or the spinal cord.


  • The diagnosis of a spinal lipoma often involves a combination of medical history review, physical examination, and imaging tests.
  • Imaging techniques such as X-rays, MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), or CT (Computed Tomography) scans can help visualize the lipoma and assess its location, size, and impact on surrounding structures.
  • In some cases, doctors order additional diagnostic tests, such as electromyography (EMG) or nerve conduction studies to evaluate any nerve involvement or associated neurological symptoms.


It is unknown what specifically leads to the development of lipomas within the body. The possibility of it being inherited is thought to exist. Moreover, many illnesses cause these tumors to develop throughout the body. A few of these include:

Dercum’s disease

is an uncommon condition that most frequently causes uncomfortable lipomas to develop on the arms, legs, and trunk. Adiposis Dolorosa and Anders’ syndrome are other names for it.

Gardner syndrome

Gardner syndrome, also known as Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP), is a condition that results in lipomas and a number of other health issues.

Hereditary multiple Lipomatosis

This condition is also known as Familial Multiple Lipomatosis, and it is inherited genetically.

Madelung’s disease

In contrast to women, males who consume too much alcohol are more likely to develop this illness. Additionally, it is known as multiple symmetric lipomatosis. Lipomas enlarge and develop around the neck and shoulders as a result of Madelung’s illness.


Lipomas come in a variety of types. The way tissue looks under a microscope helps doctors differentiate between different types of these tumors. Lipoma types include:

Conventional lipoma

The most typical type of tumor is this one.

Atypical lipoma

In addition to having more cells, these tumors have deeper fat.


Instead of the mature white fat, this growth has brown fat.


In contrast to ordinary lipomas, the fat tissue in a myelolipoma generates white blood cells.

Spindle cell lipoma

The fat cells in this development resemble spindles, as the name would imply.

Pleomorphic lipoma

The fat cells in this type are of different sizes and forms.

Fibro lipoma

Fatty and fibrous tissue coexist in fibro lipomas.


An angiolipoma is what you have if the tumor has a lot of blood vessels in addition to fat.

Potential Factors for Lipoma Generation

Individuals may develop lipomas if they have certain disorders. These comprise:

  • Gardner’s syndrome
  • Madelung’s disease
  • Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome
  • Adiposis dolorosa
  • Cowden syndrome

In addition to these risk factors, the following illnesses may also contribute to lipomas developing:

  • Obesity
  • Glucose intolerance
  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Liver disease

Treatment for Lipomas

The decision to remove a lipoma from the spinal area depends on several factors, including the size, location, symptoms, and potential risks associated with the lipoma. In many cases, lipomas in the spine are asymptomatic and do not require immediate intervention. In many cases, regular monitoring and periodic imaging tests can track the lipoma’s growth and assess any changes.  However, there are instances where doctors will recommend surgical removal. Here are some considerations:

  • Symptomatic Lipomas: If a spinal lipoma is causing symptoms such as persistent pain, neurological deficits, or affecting daily activities, doctors may consider surgical removal to alleviate discomfort and improve functionality.
  • Compression of Nerves or Spinal Cord: Lipomas located in close proximity to nerves or the spinal cord may compress these structures, leading to neurological symptoms or complications. In such cases, doctors will also consider surgical removal to relieve the compression and prevent further damage.
  • Rapid Growth or Increasing Size: Lipomas that grow rapidly or significantly increase in size may raise concerns about potential complications or the possibility of the lipoma becoming malignant. In these situations, surgical removal may be recommended for further evaluation and to eliminate any potential risks.
  • Cosmetic Reasons: When Lipomas cause cosmetic reasons, doctors will consider removing them for cosmetic reasons, particularly if they affect a person’s self-esteem or quality of life.
  • When a Lipoma develops into cancer
  • When the Lipoma grows to enormous proportions or expands swiftly.
  • If the Lipoma Interferes with the body’s natural processes.
  • When a Lipoma Produces discomfort for aesthetic purposes.
  • If the physician is unable to confirm if the tumor is a lipoma or another kind of tumor.


It’s important to consult with one of our spine specialists at the Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute to assess the specific characteristics of a spinal lipoma and determine the appropriate course of action based on individual circumstances. Our doctors can provide personalized advice, discuss potential risks and benefits of treatment options, and address any concerns or questions related to lipoma and its impact on the spine. They will consider factors such as the overall health of the patient, the potential impact on surrounding structures, and the likelihood of symptom improvement when determining the appropriate course of action.

Removal Procedure

Doctors can often surgically remove lipomas. One method is to squeeze out the fat inside the tumor through a small incision in the skin. Patients are usually under local anesthesia during this surgery and normally go home the same day. Your doctor may need to make a larger incision to completely remove a large lipoma. Doctors can also remove these tumors by liposuction. To do this, the doctor must cut the lump and insert a thin, hollow tube through the incision. A tube is then used to suck most of the fat cells out of the tumor’s body. Following surgery, the surgeon often sends the tissue to a lab for testing. When the incision has healed from these procedures, the scar is frequently minimal.

The Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute

The Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute with offices in DallasPlano, and Frisco, Texas specializes in the treatment of scoliosis and other spinal conditions, including neck pain. They offer a range of non-surgical and surgical treatments for neck pain, including physical therapy, medication, injections, and surgical interventions.

The Institute’s team of spine specialists, orthopedic spine surgeons, and pain management specialists, work together to develop individualized treatment plans for each patient. They use the latest technology and techniques to provide effective, minimally invasive treatments that minimize pain and recovery time.

The doctors treat the various causes of neck pain, such as degenerative disc disease, herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and scoliosis. The doctors emphasize the importance of early diagnosis and treatment for neck pain to prevent further damage and improve quality of life. Overall, people should consider visiting the Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute for neck pain because of their specialized expertise, advanced treatments, and focus on individualized care.


Science Direct: Spinal Lipoms


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