Spinal epidural lipomatosis: a review of its causes and recommendations for treatment

Daniel R. Fassett Department of Neurosurgery, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, Utah

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Meic H. Schmidt Department of Neurosurgery, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, Utah

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Spinal epidural lipomatosis is most commonly observed in patients receiving long-term exogenous steroid therapy, but can also be seen in patients with endogenous steroid overproduction, obesity, or idiopathic disease. With this condition, there is hypertrophy of the epidural adipose tissue, causing a narrowing of the spinal canal and compression of neural structures. A majority of patients will present with progressive myelopathy, but radicular symptoms are also common. Conservative treatment—weaning from steroids or weight loss—can reverse the hypertrophy of the adipose tissue and relieve the neural compression. If conservative management fails, surgery with decompressive laminectomy is also very successful at improving the patient's neurological symptoms.

Abbreviations used in this paper:

CT = computerized tomography; MR = magnetic resonance; SEL = spinal epidural lipomatosis.

Spinal epidural lipomatosis is most commonly observed in patients receiving long-term exogenous steroid therapy, but can also be seen in patients with endogenous steroid overproduction, obesity, or idiopathic disease. With this condition, there is hypertrophy of the epidural adipose tissue, causing a narrowing of the spinal canal and compression of neural structures. A majority of patients will present with progressive myelopathy, but radicular symptoms are also common. Conservative treatment—weaning from steroids or weight loss—can reverse the hypertrophy of the adipose tissue and relieve the neural compression. If conservative management fails, surgery with decompressive laminectomy is also very successful at improving the patient's neurological symptoms.

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