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J Neurosurg. 1991 Jan;74(1):38-42.

Idiopathic and glucocorticoid-induced spinal epidural lipomatosis.

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  • 1Division of Neurosurgery, University of Iowa Hospitals, Iowa City.


Pathological overgrowth of the epidural fat in the spine has been described and reported nearly exclusively in patients either with Cushing's syndrome or on chronic intake of glucocorticoids for a variety of clinical disorders. The authors report four patients with documented spinal lipomatosis (three pathologically and one radiologically). Only one of these patients received corticosteroids, and none had an underlying endocrinological abnormality. All four patients were adult males with a mean age at onset of symptoms of 43 years (range from 18 to 60 years). The symptoms ranged from simple neurogenic claudication and radicular pain to frank myelopathy. Myelography followed by computerized tomography were instrumental in the diagnosis of the first three patients; the fourth was diagnosed by magnetic resonance imaging. The thoracic spine was involved in two cases and the lumbosacral area in the other two. The different treatment modalities were tailored according to the symptomatology of the patients. These included weight reduction of an overweight patient with minimal neurological findings in one case and decompressive laminectomy and fat debulking to achieve adequate cord decompression in the remaining three cases. Two patients improved significantly, the condition of one stabilized, and the fourth required a second decompression at other spinal levels. The various modalities of treatment and their potential complications are discussed.

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