Intravascular lipoma

Last revised by Henry Knipe on 25 Jan 2023

Intravascular lipomas, also known as intravenous lipomas, are rare benign primary intravascular lesions with fatty nature 1.  

They are usually asymptomatic. When intravascular lipomas become large, they can cause partial obstruction and mass effect. If they occur in superior vena cava, they can cause superior vena cava syndrome or mediastinal compression 5.

They appear as circumscribed intravascular masses composed of well-differentiated adipose tissues. They originate from the vein wall and grow into the vascular lumen or spread extraluminally.

The inferior vena cava is the most commonly reported location. Less commonly, it can involve the superior vena cava, brachiocephalic, subclavian, internal jugular, external iliac and common femoral veins.

They are usually an incidental finding on CT examination. As with any lipoma, they have characteristic fat appearance in different imaging modalities. They are characteristically well-defined, homogeneous masses without any soft tissue component, hemorrhage or breackdown. They are confirmed on MRI as completely suppressed lesions on fat-saturated sequences, high T1 and T2 signal with no post-contrast enhancement.

Surgery may be considered depending on its size and clinical manifestations, especially if causing vascular obstruction.

The differential diagnosis includes fat-containing intravascular masses, whether benign or malignant like:

Being intravascular, it is important to be differentiated from intravascular extension of tumors or vascular thrombosis which are much common and critical considerations.

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Cases and figures

  • Case 1: superior vena cava
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  • Case 2: left brachiocephalic vein
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