Spinal Epidural Lipomatosis (SEL)

Spinal epidural lipomatosis (SEL) is a rare condition in which excess fat tissue can accumulate on or around the lining of the spinal cord and put pressure on the nerves, resulting in back pain, tingling, weakness, or other symptoms. SEL is more common in men than in women, and is often associated with longtime use of steroids to treat conditions such as asthma. Being overweight may also be a contributing factor. In rare cases, epidural lipomatosis may be associated with Cushing's disease, Cushing syndrome, hypothyroidism, or pituitary prolactinoma.

Spinal epidural lipomatosis is diagnosed using CT or MRI scans, which show the location and extent of the fat deposits. Depending on the severity of the condition, treatment may involve tapering off a steroid or a weight-loss regimen.

IF all conservative measures have been exhausted, surgery may be necessary for select patients whose scans show large fat deposits causing severe pressure on the spinal cord with associated symptoms. In order to prevent irreversible injury, doctors can remove the fat deposits through minimally-invasive and open decompressive procedures.

Our Care Team

  • Hansen-MacDonald Professor of Neurological Surgery
  • Director of Spinal Surgery
Phone: 212-746-2152
  • Professor of Neurological Surgery, Spinal Surgery
  • Co-Director, Spinal Deformity and Scoliosis Program
  • Director, Spinal Trauma/Adult and Pediatric Spinal Surgery
Phone: 212-746-2260
  • Clinical Associate Professor of Neurosurgery
  • Attending Neurosurgeon
Phone: 888-922-2257
  • Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery
Phone: 866-426-7787 (Manhattan) / 646-967-2020 (Brooklyn)
  • Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery
Phone: 646-962-3388
  • Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery
Phone: (718) 670-1837

Reviewed by: Paul Park, MD
Last reviewed/last updated: April 2024

Weill Cornell Medicine Neurological Surgery 525 East 68 Street, Box 99 New York, NY 10065 Phone: 866-426-7787