• Retropharyngeal lipoma;
  • lipoma;
  • liposarcoma;
  • obstructive sleep apnea


Objectives/Hypothesis Lipomas of the retropharyngeal space are rare and do not cause symptoms until they reach a large size. Although retropharyngeal lipoma is an uncommon entity, several reports of it appear in the literature, and the treatment has routinely been surgical excision. Such fatty tumors also carry the rare possibility of being liposarcomas, which further warrants their excision. We present the case of a lipoma of the retropharyngeal space extending from the nasopharynx to the superior mediastinum causing symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea. The patient had multiple medical problems and was on a regimen of anticoagulation therapy; therefore, he opted against surgical treatment. He has used continuous positive airway pressure and has been followed clinically and radiographically for 5 years. Radiographic follow-up of a retropharyngeal lipoma after a needle biopsy confirming its benign nature is a legitimate means of management of this rare condition.

Study Design Case report of a 64-year-old man presenting with this rare lesion.

Methods Computed tomography-guided needle biopsy of the mass was performed to obtain tissue diagnosis. Thereafter, the patient has been followed for 5 years with annual magnetic resonance imaging scans to determine growth or changes of the retropharyngeal mass.

Results Fine-needle aspiration of the mass revealed mature adipose tissue intermixed with fibroconnective tissue, consistent with lipoma. Based on this result, we opted to follow this patient with serial magnetic resonance imaging scans, which have shown no change in size. There has also been no change in the patient's symptoms.

Conclusions Large lipomas warrant excision, especially when their location produces pressure symptoms. However, when surgical morbidity is high, fine-needle aspiration biopsy and serial magnetic resonance imaging scans are a safe alternative.