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Madelung Disease is a rare condition characterized by fat deposits or symmetrical growth of lipomas around the shoulders, neck, and upper body. Some may experience rapid growth of fatty deposits over the course of several months, while others may experience a slower progression over time. Madelung generally affects men with a history of alcohol abuse, those of Mediterranean descent, and individuals between the ages of 30-60 years old. However, non-alcoholics and women alike can also develop the disease. The exact cause of Madelung is unknown, but there may be a strong correlation between alcoholism and those who later develop the disease. Roughly 90% of those affected by Madelung have a history of alcohol abuse.

Symptoms

Like any other disease, Madelung signs and symptoms vary from person to person. One warning sign is the presence of fat deposits or lipomas on the left side of the body. These masses generally form on the left side of the body before the right, and are found near blood vessels and veins. The growth of these lipomas around the neck and shoulders can lead to excruciating pain and decreased mobility. Madelung Disease may also cause nerve damage and neurological complications such as difficulty swallowing, hoarseness or strained voice, fluctuations in heart rate and blood pressure, shortness of breath, and difficulty sleeping.

Diagnosis

Madelung Disease is diagnosed based on a thorough physical examination and medical history review. Imaging studies such as a computed tomography (CT scan) and/or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) also prove to be helpful. An MRI scan is a preferred method to detect lipomas and possibly a biopsy to confirm diagnosis.

Treatment of Madelung Disease:

  • Traditionally, surgical removal of the fatty tumor(s) is performed, however, the patient is left with scarring and in cases of multiple fatty tumors, multiple scars are accrued.
  • A less invasive option has been liposuction, however, it is difficult to remove the entire tumor resulting in future recurrence.
  • Dr. Volshteyn has developed an innovative method of removing the fatty tumor utilizing ultrasonic destruction with minimal incisions.  This process turns the tumor into a liquid consistency and then gently suctioned out through the same small incision.
    • Minimal scarring
    • Little to no discomfort or downtime
    • Ideal for removal of multiple lipomas
    • Can be done under local anesthesia
    • In many cases, no sutures are needed

It is important to abstain from alcohol intakes, improve diet which encourages weight loss, and correction of any associated endocrine abnormalities.

 

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  3. Marie-Christine Vantyghem. Familial symmetric lipomatosis. Orphanet. October 2006; http://www.orpha.net/consor/cgi-bin/OC_Exp.php?lng=EN&Expert=2398 Accessed 6/28/2013.
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