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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.
Lipoma Removal Cost
Treatment for lipoma removal surgery varies in cost depending upon the location and size of the tumor and can run from just $500 up to $5000. Most insurance companies will cover the cost of lipoma treatment, but always check your policy for specific details and requirements.
Remember that you may also need to cover the cost of additional support staff or anesthesiologists beyond your general practitioner or dermatologist.
Surgical excision is the most efficient and effective treatment for lipomas, although less invasive options are available. Liposuction of the tumor tends to be less costly, although recurrence of the lipomas is slightly more likely with this procedure.
Some doctors may use steroid injections to shrink smaller lipomas before surgery to minimize scarring, but this procedure is not a long-term solution. Lipomas treated with steroids will usually grow back.
Location on the Body
Lipomas can occur anywhere on the body or face. Masses that develop on the face, neck, hands, feet, underarms or over joints incur higher treatment costs. Surgery to areas of the body containing complex structures will be more expensive.
Size of the Lipoma
Surgical excision of smaller lipomas (5 cm or less) on the body will cost approximately $400 to $500. Lipomas greater than 5 cm cost around $750 to $1000.
Surgery to the face or more complicated areas may require specialized techniques to minimize scarring, so the costs are slightly higher. Lipomas in these regions that measure 2 cm or less cost around $500, while larger tumors will be $750 to $1000.
Dermatologists can remove a lipoma in their office, which can engender lower overall costs. Plastic or general surgeons may require a visit to an operating room, especially for larger or more complex lipoma removal surgeries.
How To Remove Lipoma Yourself
Doctors and specialists do not recommend self-treatment for lipomas. At-home surgery can increase the risk of dangerous infections or blood loss, as well as unpleasant scarring and indented skin.
Traditional treatments for other skin conditions, such as cysts or acne, will not work on lipomas. Minimal scientific evidence shows that topical home remedies such as chickweed ointments or apple cider vinegar work to reduce or eradicate lipomas.
Concerns about lipomas under your skin should be addressed with your physician.
Recovery From Lipoma Removal
Surgical excision for most lipomas is a straightforward process. Performed while the patient is awake and under local anesthesia, lipoma removal surgery typically takes approximately 20 to 45 minutes.
You'll need to keep the stitched area covered and refrain from strenuous activity for 10 to 14 days. You'll visit your doctor's office to have external stitches removed in about a week; internal stitches will dissolve on their own over time.
Office workers can return to work the day after surgery. If your profession involves heavy lifting or strenuous activity, work with your employer to adjust your duties for two to four weeks. Similarly, you should refrain from intense exercise, watersports and stretching during your recovery period.