Medically reviewed by William Truswell, MD
Lipoma removal is a surgical procedure to remove a lipoma, a noncancerous lump. Lipomas are benign tumors made of fat tissue and look like small, soft lumps right under the skin.
Most lipomas do not require treatment. However, if your lipoma is painful or large, you and your healthcare provider may decide that removal is right for you. During a lipoma removal, a dermatologist, general surgeon, or plastic surgeon will use a scalpel to cut the skin and remove the lipoma.
The purpose of lipoma removal is to get rid of the lump under your skin. Most people who are interested in lipoma removal want to get rid of the lump for cosmetic purposes, but it's usually recommended to leave a lipoma that isn't otherwise bothersome.
While most lipomas are harmless and do not require treatment, occasionally, a lipoma is large or causes pain. In these cases, it might be best to remove the bump.
Once a lipoma is removed with surgery, it won't usually grow back.
Types of Lipoma Removal
In most cases, the dermatologist or surgeon removes a lipoma by excision. This involves using a scalpel to cut out the lipoma. Excision is the only way to completely remove a lipoma.
If a lipoma is very large or you have several lipomas to remove, the specialist performing the removal may recommend a combination of liposuction and excision. For lipomas that are greater than 4 centimeters in diameter, the doctor may perform liposuction to remove some of the fat tissue and shrink the lipoma. In these cases, liposuction can improve excision results and minimize scarring.
Another option for large or multiple lipomas is laser lipolysis, a procedure that uses a laser to break up fat cells before removing them.
How Does It Work?
A lipoma removal is usually an outpatient procedure, meaning you don't have to stay overnight. During the procedure, the dermatologist or surgeon will numb the area and remove the growth. Once it's removed, the doctor will close the wound.
Before the Lipoma Removal
When you arrive for your appointment, you will be given paperwork to fill out. If paperwork was mailed to your home or emailed to you, be sure to bring it with you. It is also helpful to bring a list of your current medications.
Before the procedure, your surgeon will administer a local anesthetic by injecting numbing medication into the skin around the lipoma. Larger lipomas may require regional anesthesia that numbs a larger area of the body by blocking certain nerves.
During the Lipoma Removal
Once the lipoma and the area around it are numb, your dermatologist or surgeon will use a sterile scalpel (surgical knife) to cut into the skin. They will remove the lipoma using the scalpel.
If you received only local anesthetic, you will be awake and able to talk with the healthcare team during the procedure. You should not expect to feel pain during the surgery.
If the lipoma is very small and you are not bleeding, the doctor will place a clean bandage over the incision site. Otherwise, they will close the incision with stitches and cover it with a bandage.
After the Lipoma Removal
Once your surgeon has bandaged your incision site, the procedure is over. If your lipoma removal was performed outpatient with local anesthetic, you will be able to go home shortly after the procedure is finished. Ask your dermatologist or surgeon if you are able to drive yourself home.
If you received stitches that need to be removed (some may be absorbed), the specialist who performed the procedure will advise you to return to the office in a week or two. Ask them about pain management. You may feel soreness at the incision site in the days after your removal. The amount of pain you feel after lipoma surgery usually depends on where the lipoma is located and how big it is.
Risks and Precautions
Lipoma removal is a surgical procedure, and like any type of surgery, it comes with certain risks. The risks include bleeding and infection. If you experience unexpected bleeding during or after your procedure, tell the doctor who performed the procedure right away.
After surgery, it is possible for your incision site to become infected. Signs of infection may include redness, swelling, or pus at the incision site. You may feel achy and develop a fever as well. Call your dermatologist or surgeon if you develop any new symptoms after lipoma removal. If your lipoma is large, you may have a scar after removal—though if the wound is closed skillfully, the scarring might be minimal once it's completely healed.
How to Prepare for a Lipoma Removal
Going in for a lipoma removal might feel scary. Knowing exactly what to expect can help calm any nerves.
When preparing for a lipoma removal, keep in mind the following factors:
Location: Most lipoma removals take place in an outpatient clinic or surgical center. Your healthcare provider is able to administer local anesthesia in an outpatient setting.
Attire: Wear loose, comfortable clothing for your lipoma removal. You will likely be given a hospital gown to change into for the procedure. Leave any jewelry or valuables at home.
Food and drink: Ask your surgeon if you can eat or drink before your procedure. For small lipomas that only require local anesthesia, you should be allowed to eat and drink normally. Fasting before surgery is usually only recommended if you will be sedated.
Medications: Talk with your surgeon about your current medications. If you take any medications that increase the risk of bleeding, such as aspirin or a blood thinner, your surgeon may recommend stopping them to lower the risk of bleeding during surgery. Don't stop your medication unless you are told to do so.
Items to bring: Bring your insurance card and any paperwork sent to you when reporting for your lipoma removal. Bring a current list of your medications too.
Emotional support: Ask your medical team about the clinic or hospital’s visitor policy. If you need or want a ride home, ask where your friend or family member can wait during your procedure.
Cost and insurance: Before your lipoma removal, call both your insurance company (if you have one) and the hospital billing department to learn about your eligibility and coverage. Ask for an estimated amount of the surgery so you know what to expect when the bill arrives.
A Quick Review
Lipoma removal is a surgical procedure to remove a lipoma, a noncancerous lump under the skin. Most lipomas are harmless and do not need to be removed. If your lipoma is very large or is causing pain, you and your healthcare provider may determine that removing it is the best option.
In most cases, a surgeon removes a lipoma through excision, or cutting the lump out with a scalpel. During the procedure, the surgeon will numb the area around the lipoma with a local anesthetic. After the procedure, the surgeon may close the area with stitches and cover the incision with a clean bandage. Most lipomas that are removed through an excision surgery do not grow back.
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