What are the signs and symptoms of lipomas?

Updated: Mar 26, 2020
  • Author: Todd A Nickloes, DO, FACOS; Chief Editor: John Geibel, MD, MSc, DSc, AGAF  more...
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Symptoms in other sites depend on the location and can include the following:

  • Lipomas in the major airways can cause respiratory distress related to bronchial obstruction; patients may present with either endobronchial or parenchymal lesions
  • Previously undiagnosed lipomas of the oropharynx may also lead to airway difficulty at the time of intubation
  • Patients with esophageal lipomas can present with obstruction, dysphagia, regurgitation, vomiting, and reflux; esophageal lipomas can be associated with aspiration and consecutive respiratory infections
  • Cardiac lipomas are located mainly subendocardially, are rarely found intramurally, and are normally unencapsulated; they appear as a yellow mass projecting into the cardiac chamber
  • Intramediastinal lipomas may impinge on the superior vena cava, thereby leading to superior vena cava syndrome
  • Intestinal lipomas may manifest as classic obstruction, intussusception, volvulization, or hemorrhage
  • Lipomas arising from fat in the intramuscular septa cause a diffuse, palpable swelling, which is more prominent when the related muscle is contracted
  • Lipomas in intra-articular joint spaces or intraosseous sites (eg, the calcaneus) may lead to joint dysfunction and pain that preclude normal ambulation
  • Lipomas may also arise in the dural or medullary components of the spinal cord, thereby leading to cord compression and attendant sequelae [7]
  • Lipomas occur frequently in the breast but not as frequently as would be expected on the basis of the extent of fat that is present
  • Lipomas may arise from the subcutaneous tissues of the vulva; they usually become pedunculated and dependent

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