A lipoma is a benign form of tumor and is the most common form of soft tissue tumor. They are usually soft and almost spongey to the touch and are generally painless, they are also non-cancerous. They are usually quite small (about one to three centimetres in diameter) and are most commonly found in people between the ages of 40 to 60 but have also been found in children. Lipomas are not thought to be hereditary, however studies have shown a connection between the development of lipomas and the presence of the gene responsible for obesity. Usually, lipomas do not have to be treated as they are usually completely benign. They are usually only removed for cosmetic reasons. The usual surgical procedure involves a simple excision and this tends to cure about 98-99% of cases of lipoma. Liposuction is also sometimes used to remove them and is preferred because it generally results in less scarring but with larger lipomas, liposuction might fail in removing the entire growth, which can lead to the tumor growing back.
Liposuction can be a viable way of safely removing lipomas when they become a little bigger (generaly over 4cm in diameter) or there is a problem of multiple growths. The method used for removal of lipomas is similar to normal liposuction, with a cannula being inserted into the growth, which then breaks down the fat cells in the growth allowing them to be more easily sucked out through the cannula by a vacuum powered suction device. The benefits of using this method are shorter time in surgery, less scarring, a better, smoother overall shape to the treated area and the ability to remove several small tumors at the same time. The cost of liposuction can vary according to several factors. They can include the amount of work being done (how much tumorous material is being removed) and the area of the body being treated. Prices in the UK will generally start from £1500 and can go up to around £5000 again depending on the extent of the work you are having done. Where you are being treated can also affect cost as generally treatment will be cheaper in an inner city because there is more competition for business which tends to push prices down.
Due to the fact that liposuction is generally regarded as a cosmetic procedure used to improve a person's appearance, it is not usually available on the NHS, as it is seen as non-essential. However, there are certain conditions like lipoma, that can be treated with liposuction and in these circumstances it may be possible to get treatment on the NHS. Other conditions that it is possible to get liposuction on the NHS for are - gynaecomastia (the development of fatty breast tissue in men) and lipodystrophy syndrome (where unsightly fat deposits are accumulated in different parts of the body, usually as a result of medicines used to treat HIV). If you feel you would qualify and/or would benefit from having lipo treatment on your lipoma then the first person to contact would be your GP who can then refer you to a specialist who will give you a full assessment and decide if treatment would be appropriate for you.
The kinds of side-effects that you will experience from having liposuction to treat lipoma are similar to the side-effects you would have from any other kind of liposuction. These can include swelling and bruising of the treated area, scarring from the incision and swollen ankles. In the case of swelling, in some patients this can last for up to six months. Infection of the wound post-surgery can also occur, but can usually be treated with antibiotics. In rarer cases, more serious complications can arise. These can include thrombosis, where a blood clot can occur in an artery, possibly leading to stroke if undetected, bleeding under the skin (known as haematoma) or a pulmonary oedema (a build up of fluid in the lungs), which can unfortunately be a side effect of fluid being injected into the body during the procedure getting into the lungs. Thankfully, these more serious complications are very rare and can usually be treated with medication of various kinds.
Recovery from liposuction is generally quite mild. There will be a certain amount of bruising and swelling in and around the area being treated but this usually clears up completely within four to six weeks. A patient can usually return to normal activities within a few days, a week at most. If you had a large amount of lipoma removed from a sensitive area, say the stomach or neck area, it is probably best to avoid strenuous exercise or heavy lifting for around four weeks or until you specialist regards it as safe for you to do so. In the first two to four weeks after surgery, it's important to keep hydrated and drink plenty of water, this will assist your recovery. Your specialist will probably want to see you for a follow up appointment about four weeks after surgery as well. Overall, you will probably not see the full effects of your treatment until around four to six months after surgery.