Acquired Partial Lipodystrophy Treatment & Management

Updated: Feb 11, 2020
  • Author: George T Griffing, MD; Chief Editor: George T Griffing, MD  more...
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Medical Care

In general, treatment for acquired partial lipodystrophy (APL) is limited to cosmetic, dietary, or medical options.

Currently, no effective treatment exists to halt the progression of lipodystrophy.

Thiazolidinediones have been used in the management of various types of lipodystrophies. They bind to peroxisome proliferator-activator receptor gamma (PPAR-gamma), which stimulates the transcription of genes responsible for growth and differentiation of adipocytes. [32] Several case reports have suggested a beneficial effect from treatment with rosiglitazone or pioglitazone on fat distribution in APL [33, 34] ; however, preferential fat gain was in the lower body.

Following the online publication of a meta-analysis, [35] the Food and Drug Administration issued an alert on May 21, 2007, to patients and health care professionals warning that rosiglitazone could potentially cause an increased risk of myocardial infarction (MI) and heart-related deaths. A thiazolidinedione derivative, rosiglitazone is an antidiabetic agent that improves glycemic control by improving insulin sensitivity. The drug is highly selective and is a potent agonist for PPAR-gamma. Activation of PPAR-gamma receptors regulates insulin-responsive gene transcription involved in glucose production, transport, and utilization, thereby reducing blood glucose concentrations and hyperinsulinemia. Potent PPAR-gamma agonists have been shown to increase the incidence of edema. A large-scale phase III trial (RECORD) has been underway to study the cardiovascular outcomes of rosiglitazone.

As of September 2010, the FDA is requiring a restricted access program to be developed for rosiglitazone under a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy (REMS). Patients currently taking rosiglitazone and benefiting from the drug will be able to continue if they choose to do so. Rosiglitazone will only be available to new patients if they are unable to achieve glucose control on other medications and are unable to take pioglitazone, the only other thiazolidinedione.

For more information, see the FDA’s Safety Alert on Avandia. Additionally, responses to the controversy, including the following articles, can be viewed at Heartwire news (the, from WebMD): 1) Rosiglitazone increases MI and CV death in meta-analysis, 2) The rosiglitazone aftermath: Legitimate concerns or hype?, and 3) RECORD interim analysis of rosiglitazone safety: No clear-cut answers.

Direct drug therapy is administered according to the associated condition. Membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis (MPGN) and the presence of renal dysfunction largely determine the prognosis of APL. Standard guidelines for the management of renal disease should be followed. The course of MPGN in APL has not been significantly altered by treatment with corticosteroids or cytotoxic medications. Recurrent bacterial infections, if severe, might be managed with prophylactic antibiotics.

Metreleptin, a recombinant analogue of human leptin, has recently been approved to treat the metabolic derangements of lipodystrophy. Leptin is an adipocyte-derived hormone, which is decreased in lipodystrophy, leading to insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, and other metabolic problems. Metreleptin replaces this deficiency, thus improving insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, dyslipidemia, and hepatic steatosis. APL has relatively higher leptin levels and less metabolic derangements. Therefore, the indications for metreleptin are less than for other forms of lipodystrophy. [36, 37, 38, 39]


Surgical Care

The main goal of cosmetic surgical procedures in the treatment of acquired partial lipodystrophy is to minimize the psychological distress and improve quality of life. Several facial reconstruction techniques have been used, with variable success, to restore facial contour. However, surgical intervention cannot restore adipose tissue distribution in other affected areas. Procedures may include the transposition of facial muscles, adipose tissue transplantation (liposuction), and the insertion of silicone or other implants.

The literature is controversial regarding these procedures. The best approach is to individualize the treatment options based on the patient's condition and requirements. These procedures are not recommended for prepubertal children.



Early consultation with a nephrologist or an endocrinologist is very important if renal or metabolic complications are suggested. A dietician should be consulted for specialized dietary needs, especially in infants and young children.



A diet consisting of 50–60% carbohydrate, 20–30% fat, and approximately 20% protein is recommended with restriction of simple sugars. High-fiber complex carbohydrates should be distributed evenly among meals and snacks and consumed with protein or fat. Dietary fat should be primarily cis-monounsaturated fats and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. [22]



Regular exercise should be encouraged to help improve metabolic status.