Encapsulated versus nonencapsulated superficial fatty masses: A proposed MR imaging classification

Catherine C. Roberts, Patrick T. Liu, Thomas V. Colby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE. The purpose of this study was to assess the MR imaging appearance of palpable fatty masses and to propose terminology for palpable subcutaneous fatty masses that are nonencapsulated on MR imaging. MATERIALS AND METHODS. We searched the past 7 years of our institution's radiology database for reports of MR images containing the word "lipoma." Medical records were reviewed to identify patients with palpable masses corresponding to fat. Two radiologists retrospectively reviewed the MR images for the presence of an encapsulated or nonencapsulated fatty mass in the region of the palpable abnormality. Pathologic specimens, when available, were also reviewed. RESULTS. Between 1995 and 2001, 184 palpable subcutaneous fatty masses were evaluated on MR imaging. Of these, 46% (85/184) were encapsulated lipomas and 54% (99/184) were nonencapsulated fatty masses on MR imaging. Four masses (three encapsulated and one nonencapsulated) were surgically resected and had pathology consistent with lipomas. CONCLUSION. Many palpable fatty masses do not have definable capsules on MR imaging. We propose that a palpable mass that corresponds to a nonencapsulated prominence of subcutaneous fat on MR imaging should be reported as a nonencapsulated lipoma. More definitive reporting of this relatively common lesion will assure the referring clinician of the benign nature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1419-1422
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican Journal of Roentgenology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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