A lipoma is a fatty lump that grows in subcutaneous tissue. While these fat deposits are entirely benign, they can grow large enough to be uncomfortable or impede normal movement. In these cases, lipoma surgery or another treatment can remove the lumps to correct the problem.
For many people, lipoma removal is not necessary, as the lumps grow to a certain size and then simply do not get any larger. Lipomas are benign and cannot become cancerous, and they are not generally dangerous. In some cases, however, lipomas may grow to a very large size, or multiple fatty deposits may grow. These can hamper movement and cause pain or discomfort, making removal a necessity. Sometimes lipomas can become infected, and when this occurs surgical removal is often the best course of treatment.
There are three main lipoma removal treatments, including both surgical and non-surgical options. One option is steroid treatments. Injecting steroids directly into a lipoma kills the fatty tissue, which causes the fatty lump to shrink. Injections are usually administered once per month, and most people who receive this lipoma treatment find it takes several weeks before the lipoma begins to shrink.
Another non-surgical option is liposuction similar to that performed by a cosmetic surgeon. In this case, only a local anesthetic is used, and a needle is inserted into the lipoma to remove the fatty tissue. Recovery from the procedure is usually quick, relatively painless, and free from complications.
These non-surgical options are not always appropriate for large lipomas, as they cannot entirely remove the lipoma. In addition, a large lipoma may leave behind a pouch of excess skin when the fatty tissue is removed. For large or problematic fatty deposits, lipoma removal surgery can be a viable option.
Simple surgery to remove a small lipoma can be carried out in a doctor’s office under a local anesthetic. This is usually a quick procedure, with a fast recovery time and a low risk of complications. For large fatty tumors or multiple growths, inpatient hospital surgery may be required. In these cases surgical lipoma removal is carried out under general anesthetic.
The risk of complications occurring increases for larger or more complicated lipomas. During surgical removal of a lipoma, a doctor or surgeon must take care to avoid cutting muscle or nerves, to prevent needless damage. This can be difficult in situations where a large lipoma has grown inwards. Complications of surgery may include bruising, wound site infection, injury to blood vessels and muscles, and scarring. In rare cases, lipoma removal may cause damage to nerves in the area.
Note that insurance will not always cover the costs of lipoma removal. If removal of one or more lipomas is carried out for medical reasons as recommended by a doctor, insurance companies will tend to cover the costs with no issues. If a person chooses to have lipomas removed because they are unsightly, however, this counts as cosmetic surgery and is not usually covered by medical insurance.