To investigate the spectrum of magnetic resonance (MR) findings of intramuscular lipoma.

A retrospective review of 17 consecutive cases of intramuscular lipoma examined with MR imaging was undertaken. Features assessed included the size and margin of the mass; the homogeneity of the contents, including the presence or absence of intermingled muscle fibers; whether the mass was uninodular or multinodular; and the presence of linear structures between and within the tumor nodules. Three well-differentiated liposarcomas and one dedifferentiated liposarcoma associated with lipoma-like components were also studied to allow a comparison of the benign and malignant lesions.

The diameter of the intramuscular lipomas varied from less than 3 cm to more than 10 cm. Ten of the intramuscular lipomas were homogeneous but the remaining seven were inhomogeneous with intermingled muscle fibers within the mass. The intramuscular lipomas were well defined in 12 cases, and infiltrative in five. In one case the margin of the lesion showed prominent infiltration of the surrounding muscle tissue. Of the 17 cases of intramuscular lipoma, 15 were composed of a single nodule, whereas three of four cases of liposarcoma were composed of multinodular masses.

The MR findings of intramuscular lipoma varied from a small, single and homogeneous mass identical to ordinary (superficial) lipoma, to a large, inhomogeneous lesion with an infiltrative margin. The presence of infiltrative margins and intermingled muscle fibers in intramuscular lipoma indicates a benign lesion rather than malignancy. In addition, uninodularity of the mass is helpful in differentiating intramuscular lipoma from well-differentiated liposarcoma.

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