How Lipoma Is Treated

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Lipomas are growths of fatty tissue that develop underneath the skin. The growths themselves are non-cancerous and rarely harmful to one’s health.

Because of this, treatment isn’t always necessary. That said, people can choose to have their lipomas treated using surgical removal or steroid injections. 

This article discusses the treatment options for people who wish to remove their lipomas.

A woman on a video call with a healthcare provider

FG Trade / Getty Images

Lipomas are rarely painful, nor do they typically cause any adverse health effects. However, in some cases, they can:

  • Cause pain if they are in weight-bearing areas such as the bottom of the feet
  • Interfere with muscle movement
  • Compress or press on nerves that could cause neuropathic symptoms such as pain

Even if a lipoma doesn't cause symptoms, it can still be a cosmetic issue depending on the size and the number of growths that develop.

Surgeries and Specialists-Driven Procedures

Surgery is the first-choice treatment for removing lipomas. Surgeons use several surgical techniques to remove a lipoma, such as:

  • Minimal incision extraction: This process involves putting a small incision in the lipoma. The fatty tissue beneath the skin is removed through the small incision by squeezing it out. This technique is best for smaller lipomas.
  • Elliptical incision: This surgery involves making an incision shaped like a football to remove the fatty tissue below the skin. This method is more complicated and can be less effective than minimal incision extraction.
  • Endoscopic submucosal dissection: A tube-like tool known as an endoscope is inserted through a small incision into the lipoma. Another knife-like tool is run through the tube to cut the tissue out. The procedure is typically reserved for lipomas that develop in irregular places such as the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Z-incision: This surgical technique involves cutting an incision shaped like the letter Z into the lipoma and removing the fatty tissue underneath. The Z-incision is best for larger lipomas that cannot be effectively removed through other surgical methods.

How Does the Surgical Process Work?

People undergoing surgery for a lipoma, no matter the size, will be given a local anesthetic. Once the incision and removal are complete, the area is stitched up. In many cases of small lipomas, you can return home the same day of the procedure.

Off-Label Treatment  

Liposuction is another option for the removal of lipomas. While liposuction is typically reserved for other types of fat removal, the fatty tissue that makes up the lipomas can be removed using this method.

Liposuction for lipoma removal is done by cutting an incision and injecting the tissue with a solution that helps to numb the area.

The solution also helps prevent bleeding and bruising and aids in breaking down the fat, making it easier to remove. A thin tube known as a cannula is then placed into the incision to suck the fatty tissue out.

How Effective Is Liposuction for Lipoma Removal?

While liposuction can be an effective treatment method for certain lipomas, it isn’t always the best choice because it doesn’t always remove all the tissue in the lipoma. In these cases, new lipomas can form in the same spot because of the tissue left behind. That said, all surgical removal of lipomas comes with a similar risk of recurrence.

Non-Surgical Removal

Smaller lipomas can be shrunk or removed using steroid injections. Steroid injections work by stimulating the breakdown of fatty tissue and encouraging fat loss in the area.

Lipomas less than 1 inch in diameter respond the best to steroid injections. In people with small lipomas, steroid injections can reduce the size of the lipoma in roughly 60% of cases.

Prednisone and triamcinolone acetonide are steroid medications typically used for lipoma injections. Research has found that although prednisone is effective, people who use this medication over triamcinolone acetonide often experience recurrent lipomas.

How Many Steroid Injections Are Required?

The number of injections needed will depend on the person’s lipoma and the medication they are using. For example, prednisone injections are typically given five days per week for four weeks, whereas triamcinolone may be effective in as little as one injection.

Summary

Lipomas are non-cancerous growths that rarely cause symptoms. In many cases, they can be left alone without treatment. However, they can grow big enough to press on nerves, cause pain, or make it difficult to move muscles. The cosmetic appearance of lipomas can also cause an issue for some people.

Because of these reasons, many people opt to have their lipomas removed. The first-line treatment for removing lipomas is surgery. There are different surgical techniques, all of which are geared toward a person’s individual lipoma. For example, liposuction and steroid injections are effective removal techniques but work best on smaller lipomas.

A Word From Verywell

New skin growths can make your alarm bells go off, but if you have a new growth that turns out to be a lipoma, you have nothing to worry about health-wise.

Lipomas are not dangerous, and because of that, you may not have to have them removed at all. It is entirely up to you based on how the lipoma affects you and whether or not you want to go through the trouble of having it removed. Always discuss any new skin growths with your healthcare provider.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do I know if it’s a lipoma and not something else?

    The only way to tell if you have a lipoma or something else is to see your healthcare provider for the proper diagnostics. While lipomas are not dangerous to your health, they can be confused with another type of tumor known as liposarcoma. Liposarcomas are cancerous and, as such, need to be removed.

  • Does getting a lipoma removed hurt?

    Surgical procedures tend to come with a bit of pain after the fact. However, you should not feel any pain during lipoma removal because of the local anesthetic. The most you should feel during removal is pressure in the area or a pushing feeling.

  • How do you know if you should leave a lipoma or have it removed?

    Smaller lipomas that do not cause any issues can typically be left alone. However, if a lipoma is larger than 5 centimeters, it should be removed. This is because it could potentially be something more sinister such as liposarcoma. See your healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis if you develop any new skin growths.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. UK National Health Service. Lipoma.

  2. Hayward WA, Sibbitt WL, Sibbitt RR, et al. Intralesional injection of triamcinolone acetonide for subcutaneous lipoma causing musculoskeletal and neurologic symptoms. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2018;11(5):38-42.

  3. Cosulich MT, Molenda MA, Mostow E, Bhatia AC, Brodell RT. Minimal incision extraction of lipomas. JAMA Dermatol. 2014;150(12):1360-1361. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2014.3234

  4. Ingason AB, Theodors A, Agustsson AS, Arnarson A. Giant gastric lipoma successfully removed by endoscopic submucosal dissection: case report and systematic review. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2018;53(8):1018-1024. doi:10.1080/00365521.2018.1495259

  5. Won JH, Hur K, Ohn J, Mun JH. Surgical management of lipomas: Proposal of the Z-incision design and surgical algorithm based on tumor size. Dermatol Ther. 2020;33(1):e13151. doi:10.1111/dth.13151

  6. Peev I, Spasevska L, Mirchevska E, Tudzarova-Gjorgova S. Liposuction assisted lipoma removal - option or alternative? Open Access Maced J Med Sci. 2017;5(6):766-770. doi:10.3889/oamjms.2017.186

  7. National Organization for Rare Disorders. Liposcarcoma.

By Angelica Bottaro
Angelica Bottaro is a professional freelance writer with over 5 years of experience. She has been educated in both psychology and journalism, and her dual education has given her the research and writing skills needed to deliver sound and engaging content in the health space.