What Do You Recommend if the Lipoma is Considered Inoperable?

It Has Grown So Large and the Doctor Feels It May Damage nerves and veins or muscle? My brother has one on his right upper arm. His left arm is 16 inches in diameter but the right one is 28 inches in diameter due to what the doctor tells us is a lipoma. The doctor says it would be about a 12 hour surgery to remove this. So he advised against surgery due to the risks of losing use of the arm or the limb altogether. My brother is also diabetic. It has lately begun to hurt and cause limited use of his arm and appears to still be growing. Any advice?

Doctor Answers 5


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Get a second opinion from a BOARD CERTIFIED PLASTIC SURGEON (AMERICAN BOARD OF PLASTIC SURGERY) who knows the anatomy and can operate safely and with reasonable risk.

This large lipoma need to be woked up first to amke sure it is a benign lipoma and not a liposarcoma.

MRI, BIOBSY and a skilled surgeon.

You have to understand that ther are risks in every surgery

Baltimore Plastic Surgeon

Inoperable lipoma

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their isnt a case where a lipoma in inoperable. risk of operating may be greater than doing nothing. but if this thing is so large and growing it could damage the nerves permanently by doing nothing. i would seek a second or third opinion on this.

this doesnt sound right. lipomas usually have a pseudo capsule in the arm making them very easy to excise.


i would get it out by someone who knows the anatomy of the arm. ie a plastic surgeon or hand surgeon who does a lot of soft tissue surgery.

Lipomas are not inoperable

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The lipoma which you describe is extremely large but that would not militate against removal. My first concern is diagnosis. Has the mass been confirmed to be a lipoma? Next, in a lesion of this size, malignant degeneration cannot be ruled out. I definitely recommend a comprehensive diagnostic workup including CT scan and that you consult with a board certified plastic surgeon. Best wishes.

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Lipoma removal

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I would immediately seek a second and third opinion and make sure you go to a Plastic Surgeon who is a specialist in this region. I would get a complete copy of your records from the other physician and see if he has had a biopsy and what type of work ups have been performed in diagnosing the lipoma. This information will also be helpful to the new consulting surgeons and you can send a copy of his medical records ahead of time for them to review. His diabetic history would be helpful in determining his surgical plan as well. Best regards!

Michael Elam, MD
Orange County Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 214 reviews

Large lipoma

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It would be terribly rare for a lipoma to be 16 or more inches.  You need a biopsy of the lesion first to be sure that is what it is.  Then just find a skilled surgeon who is comfortable with this.  It should be manageable but first you need to know what it is .   Small biopsy first .

Shawn Allen, MD
Boulder Dermatologist

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