Spinal Epidural Lipomatosis: A Comprehensive Review

Orthop Rev (Pavia). 2021 Jul 11;13(2):25571. doi: 10.52965/001c.25571. eCollection 2021.


Purpose of review: This is a comprehensive review regarding the epidemiology, diagnosis, and management of spinal epidural lipomatosis (SEL).

Recent findings: SEL is a relatively rare condition that has gained scientific relevance over the past few decades. Recent findings include expanding treatment strategies to include minimally invasive surgical techniques.

Summary: SEL is caused by an excess of adipose tissue accumulation localized to the thoracic and lumbar regions of the spine. While the exact pathogenesis is not fully elucidated, the etiology of SEL can be broadly classified based on five commonly associated risk factors; exogenous steroid use, obesity, endogenous steroid hormonal disease, spine surgery, and idiopathic disease. Progression of SEL may lead to neurological deficits, myelopathy, radiculopathy, neurogenic claudication, loss of sensation, difficulty voiding, lower extremity weakness, and rarely cauda equina syndrome. Conservative management is largely patient-specific and aimed at mitigating symptoms that arise from shared risk factors. If more advanced treatment measures are necessary, minimally invasive surgery and open surgical techniques, have proven successful.

Keywords: lumbar epidural lipomatosis; obesity; spinal decompression; spinal epidural lipomatosis; steroid-induced spinal epidural lipomatosis.

Publication types

  • Review