Obes Facts. 2022 Oct 28:1-12. doi: 10.1159/000527138. Online ahead of print.
INTRODUCTION: Lipedema is a poorly known condition. Diagnosis is based almost exclusively on clinical criteria, which may be subjective and not always reliable. This study aimed to investigate regional body composition (BC) by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) in patients with lipedema and healthy controls and to determine cut-off values of fat mass (FM) indices to provide an additional tool for the diagnosis and staging of this condition.
METHODS: This study is a single-center case-control study performed at Lausanne University Hospital, Switzerland. Women with clinically diagnosed lipedema underwent regional BC assessment by DXA. The control group without clinical lipedema was matched for age and body mass index (BMI) at a ratio of 1:2 and underwent similar examination. Regional FM (legs, arms, legs and arms, trunk, android and gynoid FM) was measured in (kg) and divided by FM index (FMI) (kg/m2) and total FM (kg). The trunk/legs and android/gynoid ratios were calculated. For all indices of FM distribution showing a significant difference between cases and controls, we defined the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves, calculating the area under the curve (AUC), sensitivity, specificity, and Youden’s index. Types and stages of lipedema were compared in terms of FM indices. Correlation analyses between all FM distribution indices and lipedema stages were performed.
RESULTS: We included 222 women (74 with lipedema and 148 controls). Overall, the mean age was 41 years (standard deviation [SD] 11), and mean BMI was 30.9 kg/m2 (SD 7.6). A statistically significant difference was observed for all DXA-derived indices of FM distribution between groups, except for arm FM indices. The ROC curve analysis of leg FM/total FM, as a potential indicator of lipedema, resulted in an AUC of 0.90 (95% confidence interval 0.86-0.94). According to Youden’s index, optimal cut-off value identifying lipedema was 0.384. Sensitivity and specificity were 0.95 and 0.73, respectively. We found no significant differences between lipedema types and stages in terms of FM indices, nor significant correlations between the latter and lipedema stages.
DISCUSSION/CONCLUSION: BC assessment by DXA, and particularly calculation of the leg FM/total FM index, is a simple tool that may help clinicians rule out lipedema in doubtful cases.