A New Subform? Fast-Progressing, Severe Neurological Deterioration Caused by Spinal Epidural Lipomatosis

Spinal epidural lipomatosis (SEL) is a rare condition caused by hypertrophic growth of epidural fat. The prevalence of SEL in the Western world is approximately 1 in 40 patients and is likely to increase due to current medical and socio-economic developments. Rarely, SEL can lead to rapid severe neurological deterioration. The pathophysiology, optimal treatment, and outcome of these patients remain unclear. This study aims to widen current knowledge about this "SEL subform" and to improve its clinical management. A systematic literature review according to the PRISMA guidelines using PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, and Cochrane Library was used to identify publications before 7 November 2021 reporting on acute/rapidly progressing, severe SEL. The final analysis comprised 12 patients with acute, severe SEL. The majority of the patients were male (9/12) and multimorbid (10/12). SEL mainly affected the thoracic part of the spinal cord (11/12), extending a median number of 7 spinal levels (range: 4-19). Surgery was the only chosen therapy (11/12), except for one critically ill patient. Regarding the outcome, half of the patients regained independence (6/11; = modified McCormick Scale ≤ II). Acute, severe SEL is a rare condition, mainly affecting multimorbid patients. The prognosis is poor in nearly 50% of the patients, even with maximum therapy. Further research is needed to stratify patients for conservative or surgical treatment.


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