Acquired Partial Lipodystrophy Workup

Updated: Dec 16, 2015
  • Author: George T Griffing, MD; Chief Editor: George T Griffing, MD  more...
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Laboratory Studies

The diagnosis of the disease is mainly clinical (see the list of diagnostic criteria). The laboratory workup is needed primarily to investigate for the presence of associated disorders (metabolic, autoimmune, and renal diseases).

Every patient should have a fasting blood glucose and lipid profile, creatinine evaluation, and urinalysis for protein content at the first visit, after which he/she should have these tests on a regular basis.

Although uncommon, lipid abnormalities can occur in the form of raised triglyceride levels and low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels.

Patients usually have decreased serum C3 levels, normal levels of C1 and C4, and high levels of C3NeF (autoantibody), which may indicate the presence of renal involvement. The C3nef is not always present, however. [28, 29]

Antinuclear antibodies (ANA), anti–double-stranded deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), antiphospholipid, and anticardiolipin antibodies have reportedly been observed in some patients with acquired partial lipodystrophy. [30]

A genetic workup should be performed if the familial form of lipodystrophy is suggested.

Laboratory work for associated diseases includes the following:

  • Metabolic disease - Fasting glucose, glucose tolerance test, lipid profile, and fasting insulin to characterize the insulin resistance state; free testosterone (in women) to look for polycystic ovary syndrome

  • Autoimmune disease - ANA, anti–double-stranded DNA, rheumatoid factor, thyroid antibodies, C3, and C3NeF


Imaging Studies

As a confirmatory test, whole-body MRI usually clearly demonstrates the extent of lipodystrophy. MRI is not recommended on a routine basis.



Renal biopsy is the test of choice to help diagnose the type of renal impairment in these patients. A transcutaneous procedure performed under ultrasonographic guidance, it is used to obtain renal tissue using a fine needle. Nephrologists should direct this procedure.


Histologic Findings

Under light microscopy, biopsy specimens of affected areas show a loss of subcutaneous fat; relative adipocyte volume is reduced to 65% of baseline. Lipocytes are usually atrophic or are reduced in number. No infiltrates with lymphocytes have been reported.