Neurology India
menu-bar5 Open access journal indexed with Index Medicus
  Users online: 11989  
 Home | Login 
About Editorial board Articlesmenu-bullet NSI Publicationsmenu-bullet Search Instructions Online Submission Subscribe Videos Etcetera Contact
  Navigate Here 
 Resource Links
  »  Similar in PUBMED
 »  Search Pubmed for
 »  Search in Google Scholar for
 »Related articles
  »  Article in PDF (1,822 KB)
  »  Citation Manager
  »  Access Statistics
  »  Reader Comments
  »  Email Alert *
  »  Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

  In this Article
 »  Abstract
 » Case History
 » Discussion
 »  References
 »  Article Figures

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded11    
    Comments [Add]    

Recommend this journal


Table of Contents    
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 70  |  Issue : 8  |  Page : 302-305

Non Dysraphic Intramedullary Spinal Cord Lipoma

Department of Neurosurgery, Sri Ramachandara Institute of Higher Education and Research, Porur, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Date of Submission05-Feb-2020
Date of Decision07-Jun-2020
Date of Acceptance07-Jul-2020
Date of Web Publication11-Nov-2022

Correspondence Address:
D Balachandar
Sri Ramachandra Institute of Higher Education and Research, Porur, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0028-3886.360941

Rights and Permissions

 » Abstract 

Among all intramedullary spinal cord lesions, intramedullary spinal cord lipomas account less than 1%. Non-dysraphic intramedullary lipoma is very rare. It is most commonly seen in cervicodorsal region followed by cervico bulbar, lumbar and sometimes multiple. Here we present a 17-year-old female who underwent MRI due to upper dorsal pain followed by progressive bilateral lower limb weakness which showed intramedullary lesion extending from T1-T9, involving eight vertebral segments with distal syrinx and features suggestive of lipoma. Patient underwent surgical decompression of lipoma. Patient had an uneventful post-operative period. Diagnosis confirmed by histopathology.

Keywords: Intramedullary lipoma, non-dysraphic
Key Message: These tumors should not be aimed for complete removal which can cause irreversible neural damage. Instead, generous debulking followed by duraplasty and ± laminoplasty will make way for smooth and uneventful postoperative period with improvement in neurological status.

How to cite this article:
Balachandar D, Naidu P B, Sangeetha, Selvakumar K. Non Dysraphic Intramedullary Spinal Cord Lipoma. Neurol India 2022;70, Suppl S2:302-5

How to cite this URL:
Balachandar D, Naidu P B, Sangeetha, Selvakumar K. Non Dysraphic Intramedullary Spinal Cord Lipoma. Neurol India [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Dec 3];70, Suppl S2:302-5. Available from: https://www.neurologyindia.com/text.asp?2022/70/8/302/360941

Intramedullary spinal cord lipomas are very rare lesions which accounts for less than 1% of all intramedullary spinal cord tumors. These tumors are in most cases associated with spinal dysraphism in which it will likely be seen communicating with the subcutaneous tissue via the defect in the posterior elements of the spine.[1] First case report of spinal lipoma was done by Gowers in 1876.[2],[20] There are only a few cases that have been reported worldwide.[3]

 » Case History Top

A 17-year-old female presented with upper dorsal pain for duration of 1 year with tightness followed by weakness of both lower limbs [left > right] for 30 days duration. Bedridden for 1 day with no bowel and bladder symptoms. On examination she was found to have grade IV spasticity, lower limb power- proximal 4/5 - distal 3/5. The patient had loss of touch, pain, pressure, temperature, position and vibration sensation below D4 dermatome. Deep tendon reflexes in lower limb was exaggerated. No neurocutaneous markers.

Imaging studies done showed T1 and T2 WI hyperintense lesion of size 12.5 × 1.2 cm in dorsal intramedullary region causing cord compression [Right > Left] with distal syrinx formation. This lesion appeared hypointense in fat suppression sequence.

Patient was taken up for surgery, operated in prone position. Midline skin incision made extending from D1 to D10 spinous process. Laminotomy was done and dura was found to be tense and bulging. Midline durotomy done. Arachnoid membrane separated in midline. Yellowish tumour encountered and subtotal excision done with Cavitron ultrasonic surgical aspirator with minimal handling of the cord. Excision was done from above to below till normal cord is seen and leaving a sliver of tumour which is adherent to the underlying cord. Laminoplasty was done as it was involving long segment and to avoid delayed kyphosis [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5], [Figure 6], [Figure 7], [Figure 8], [Figure 9]. Postoperative period was uneventful. Spasticity improved to grade II over 2 weeks. Patient improved neurologically with physiotherapy. Diagnosis of lipoma confirmed with histopathology.
Figure 1: (a and b) Intramedullary dorsal cord lesion of size 12.5 x 1.2 cm extending from D1 to D8 compressing the cord with syrinx below D8 level.

Click here to view
Figure 2: Fat suppression sequence

Click here to view
Figure 3: Cord compression

Click here to view
Figure 4: Distal syrinx

Click here to view
Figure 5: Lipoma exposed

Click here to view
Figure 6: After resection of lipoma

Click here to view
Figure 7: Laminoplasty

Click here to view
Figure 8: Post op CT Dorsal spine

Click here to view
Figure 9: Lobules of adipose tissue with focally entrapped collagenous material. No evidence of malignancy

Click here to view

 » Discussion Top

Non-dysraphic spinal cord lipoma is the least common intramedullary tumor,[4] with similar presentation to other intramedullary spinal cord tumors. Lipoma is located below the pia mater.[5] These are not true neoplasm, but arise from inclusion of normal mesenchymal tissue.[6] Only 7 cases of true intramedullary spinal cord lipoma was reported before 1957.[2] Lee et al. reported that only 100 cases of spinal cord lipomas were reported worldwide before 1995.[3] H.S. Bhatoe et al. in 2005 did a retrospective analysis of 14 patients from 1991-2003.[1] Symptoms vary depending on the site of the tumor. Usually, patients present with longstanding disability followed by rapid progression of their symptoms.[3] By the time they arrive to the hospital they will have poor neurological condition. Due to the absence of clear surgical plane between tumor and spinal cord most surgeons find it difficult to remove this tumor. The goal of surgery is to provide decompression and generous debulking,[3] leaving a sliver of tissue to prevent vascular compromise of adjacent cord[4], followed by duraplasty.

Patterns of presentation

In infancy or childhood

It usually presents as tetraplegia or floppy baby syndrome, which was initially thought to be due to birth related trauma.[7],[8]

In 3rd or 4th decade of life

This type of disease presents as slowly progressing myelopathy which can remain static for years with spinal axis pain and dysesthetic sensory changes. Plane of lesion will be mostly subpial. These patients will remain ambulant and continent for a long time with sudden deterioration one day, which indicates exhaustion of physiological reserve of neurological functions of spinal cord which was compressed for years by the congenital lesion.[9]

Hypothesis for intramedullary lipoma

Developmental error theory

Mesenchymal cells, precursor to adipocytes migrates into neural tube before closure and develops as lipoma.[10]

Metaplasia theory

Connective tissue metaplasia is the cause of formation of lipoma.[11]

Hamartomatous origin theory

Adipocyte tissue can comprise peripheral nerve twig, dermoid cyst, skeletal muscles and lymphoid or renal tissue, which arises from ectoderm or mesoderm.[11],[12]

Spinal vessel cell theory

Defective neural crest cells fail to inhibit mesenchymal cells which forms adipocytes instead of forming into spinal vessels in normal situations.[13]

In some lipomas, other mesenchymal derivatives are also seen.[14] Lipomas with spinal dysraphism are thought of as hamartomas,[15] whereas non-dysraphic lipomas are presumed to be true neoplasms.[16]

Lee et al.[3] says that spinal lipoma is a congenital lesion and not a neoplasm. They have actually replaced normal tissue during development in addition to compression, therefore there would be more chance of everlasting injury to function of normal spinal cord due to less redundancy in the functional pathways. Intramedullary spinal cord lipoma without spinal dysraphism has less space for enlargement; hence they have early presentation of symptoms. Asymptomatic lesions can be on observation but once there is commencement of deficits, surgical debulking is advised.

Lee et al. says that early surgery is always better because it prevents permanent spinal cord injury. Operating after the patient developed irreversible spinal cord dysfunction is futile. Early diagnosis with MRI followed by surgical debulking of lesion prior to irreversible disease progression is ideal.[3]

Diagnostic imaging

MRI is the most sensitive and definitive investigation of choice. Lesion will be hyperintense in T1 weighted image and confirmed by fat suppression sequence, in which blood and calcifications remains hyperintense.[16]

Surgical options

The aim of the surgery should only be biopsy and decompression by partial debulking, which is achieved by leaving a thin strip of lesion on the surface of the cord. Attempts in trying to remove the adherent tumor attached to the cord leads to worsening of neurological deficits. It is better to leave a thin layer of tumor over the cord since the tumor has indolent growth.[4],[17],[18] Intraoperative ultrasound is helpful to know the extent of lesion.[19] SSEP monitoring will be helpful.

CO2 laser is helpful as laser vaporizes the fatty tissue which has high water content. Intraoperative neuromonitoring improves postoperative outcome.[16] Laminoplasty is a reasonable option in adults as it helps in avoiding delayed instability.[9]

Declaration of patient consent

The authors certify that they have obtained all appropriate patient consent forms. In the form the patient(s) has/have given his/her/their consent for his/her/their images and other clinical information to be reported in the journal. The patients understand that their names and initials will not be published and due efforts will be made to conceal their identity, but anonymity cannot be guaranteed.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

 » References Top

Bhatoe HS, Singh P, Chaturvedi A, Sahai K, Dutta V, Sahoo P. Nondysraphic intramedullary spinal cord lipomas: A review. Neurosurg Focus 2005;18:1-5.  Back to cited text no. 1
Caram PC, Scarcella G, Carton CA. Intradural lipomas of the spinal cord: With particular emphasis on the “intramedullary” lipomas. J Neurosurg 1957;14:28-42.  Back to cited text no. 2
Lee M, Rezai AR, Abbott R, Coelho DH, Epstein FJ. Intramedullary spinal cord lipomas. J Neurosurg 1995;82:394-400.  Back to cited text no. 3
Chagla AS, Balasubramaniam S, Goel AH. A massive cervicomedullary intramedullary spinal cord lipoma. J Clin Neurosci 2008;15:817-20.  Back to cited text no. 4
Pathi R, Kiley M, Sage M. Isolated spinal cord lipoma. J Clin Neurosci 2003;10:692-4.  Back to cited text no. 5
Malis LI. Intramedullary spinal cord tumors. Neurosurgery. 1978;25(suppl_1):512-39.  Back to cited text no. 6
Mori K, Kamimura Y, Uchida Y, Kurisaka M, Eguchi S. Large intramedullary lipoma of the cervical cord and posterior fossa: Case report. J Neurosurg 1986;64:974-6.  Back to cited text no. 7
Ur-Rahman N, Salih MA, Jamjoom AH, Jamjoom ZA. Congenital intramedullary lipoma of the dorsocervical spinal cord with intracranial extension: Case report. Neurosurgery 1994;34:1081-3.  Back to cited text no. 8
Schwartz T, McCormick P. Intramedullary tumours of the spinal cord. Textb Neurol Surg Princ Pract 2003;2:1864-71.  Back to cited text no. 9
Muraszko K, Youkilis A. Intramedullary spinal tumors of disordered embryogenesis. J Neurooncol 2000;47:271-81.  Back to cited text no. 10
Ammerman BJ, Henry JM, De Girolami U, Earle KM. Intradural lipomas of the spinal cord: A clinicopathological correlation. J Neurosurg 1976;44:331-6.  Back to cited text no. 11
Timmer F, Rooij W, Beute G, Teepen J. Intramedullary lipoma. Neuroradiology 1996;38:159-60.  Back to cited text no. 12
Catala M. Embryogenesis Why do we need a new explanation for the emergence of spina bifida with lipoma? Childs Nerv Syst 1997;13:336-40.  Back to cited text no. 13
Ahmed O, Zhang S, Thakur JD, Nanda A. Nondysraphic intramedullary cervical cord lipoma with exophytic component: Case report. J Neurol Surg Rep 2015;76:e87-90.  Back to cited text no. 14
Fleming KL, Davidson L, Gonzalez-Gomez I, McComb JG. Nondysraphic pediatric intramedullary spinal cord lipomas: Report of 5 cases. J Neurosurg Pediatr 2010;5:172-8.  Back to cited text no. 15
Meher SK, Tripathy LN, Jain H, Basu S. Nondysraphic cervicomedullary intramedullary lipoma. J Craniovertebral Junction Spine 2017;8:271.  Back to cited text no. 16
Arnold PM, Gust TD, Newell K. Intramedullary leiomyolipoma of the thoracic spine: Case report. J Neurosurg Spine 2007;6:438-40.  Back to cited text no. 17
Mohindra S, Gupta SK. Cervicobulbar intramedullary lipoma. Spine J 2009;9:e12-6.  Back to cited text no. 18
Epstein FJ, Farmer J-P, Schneider SJ. Intraoperative ultrasonography: An important surgical adjunct for intramedullary tumors. J Neurosurg 1991;74:729-33.  Back to cited text no. 19
Blount JP, Maleknia P, Hopson BD, Rocque BG, Oakes WJ. Hydrocephalus in Spina Bifida. Neurol India 2021;69(Supplement):S367-S371.  Back to cited text no. 20


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5], [Figure 6], [Figure 7], [Figure 8], [Figure 9]


Print this article  Email this article
Online since 20th March '04
Published by Wolters Kluwer - Medknow