Lipomatous myopathy

From Cow

Lipomatous myopathy (Madelung's disease) is a rare autosomal recessive genetic disease of Piedmontese calves.

This disease is characterized by substitution of muscle cells with adipose tissue, although genetically-affected cattle are often asymptomatic. The disease is thought to be caused by a defect in the lipolytic pathway of the fat cell or an abnormal lipogenesis induced by catecholamines[1].

Unlike the usual lipomas, these fatty masses do not have distinct boundaries and are not enclosed within a membranous capsule. Because of this characteristic and the absolute symmetry of this condition, it is often dismissed as obesity[2]. In humans, lipomatous myopathy is associated with macrocytic anemia, proximal myopathy, somatic and autonomic neuropathy, and central nervous manifestations, but does not appear to occur with cattle.

Diagnosis has been based on postmortem findings which show varying degrees of infiltration of muscles with adipose tissue, primarily in the ventral abdomen and shoulders.

Histological examination revealed reduced muscle-fibre size and increased number of fibres with centrally located nuclei, suggesting myositis. Necrosis and non-suppurative inflammatory cells were also observed together with proliferation of connective tissue and non-specific myopathic changes[3].

Because of the non-pathogenic nature of this disease, no treatment is recommended.


  1. Lee HW et al (2003) Multiple symmetric lipomatosis: Korean experience. Dermatol Surg 29:235–240
  2. Suresh Chandran CJ et al (2009) Madelung's disease with myopathy. Ann Indian Acad Neurol 12(2):131-132
  3. Biasibetti E et al (2012) Lipomatous muscular 'dystrophy' of Piedmontese cattle. Animal 9:1-9