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Do I Need Surgery to Remove a Lipoma?


If you have a lipoma (fatty tumor) under your skin, most of the time you won’t need to have it surgically removed. If you do need surgery, you’ll probably be able to go home the same day and return to work within a few days to a week.

Lipomas are benign (noncancerous) growths made up of fat cells.  About 1 percent of us will develop a lipoma. They’re most common among people between ages 40 and 60.

What causes lipomas?

Doctors aren’t sure why lipomas form. They appear to run in families and sometimes seem to be triggered by an injury to the skin.

The following conditions may raise your risk of developing a lipoma:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Liver disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Cowden syndrome
  • Gardner’s syndrome
  • Madelung’s disease
  • Adiposis dolorosa
  • Glucose intolerance

What does a lipoma look like? 

Lipomas can form anyplace that you have fat cells, but they most commonly show up in your shoulders, chest, armpits, arms, neck, or thighs. Most of the time, lipomas:

  • Are less than 2 inches wide
  • Feel soft and doughy to the touch.
  • Move easily if you press them with a finger.

Occasionally, lipomas grow larger than 2 inches. These are called giant lipomas. It’s unusual, but once in a while a lipoma will form inside your body in an organ, bone, or muscle.

Who needs to have surgery?

Most people will do fine if they just keep an eye on the lipoma and let their doctor know if they see any changes. Surgery may be needed, though, if the lipoma is pressing against nerves or blood vessels and causing pain. You may also want to have a lipoma removed for cosmetic reasons.

Don’t try to diagnose a lipoma yourself. If you see or feel a lump on your body, get it checked out by a doctor. And be sure to tell your doctor if you see any changes in a lipoma.

What is the surgery like?

The surgery usually takes just a few minutes. In most cases, you will only need local anesthesia to numb the area involved. You should be able to go home the same day.

If you have a giant lipoma, which is more difficult to remove, you may need general anesthesia, which means you won’t be awake during the procedure.

How long is the recovery?

If you do need surgery, you should be able to return to your normal activities in about a week. Your surgeon will take a sample of the area removed and send it to a pathology lab to be sure the growth doesn’t contain cancer cells.

For more information about lipoma surgery, please call Specialty Surgical Center. We would be happy to schedule a consultation with one of our doctors.

Specialty Surgical Center is located in Sparta, New Jersey, and our staff consists of board certified surgeons and anesthesiologists performing procedures in orthopedics, sports medicine, spinal care, podiatry, urology, pain management, ENT, hand surgery, lithotripsy, brachytherapy, GYN, and laser surgery.

For more information about Specialty Surgical Center, call 973-940-3166 or visit our Contact Page.

The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.