Characteristics and morphology of lipohypertrophic lesions in adults with type 1 diabetes with ultrasound screening: an exploratory observational study

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INTRODUCTION: Lipohypertrophy is a common complication of exposure to insulin therapy. Despite the prevalence of lipohypertrophy and its potentially hazardous effects on glucose regulation, it remains a relatively understudied problem in diabetes. The objective of this study was to characterize lipohypertrophic tissue using ultrasound in adults with type 1 diabetes.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: An observational study of 74 people with type 1 diabetes from a diabetes center in South East London. Participants' insulin exposed areas were scanned with ultrasound, with a high-frequency linear probe (6-13 MHz). The observed tissue changes were described, measured and graded according to nodule size and thickness of the dermal layer.

RESULTS: Participants mean age and diabetes duration were 40.6 (±14.2) and 18.3 (±10.9) years, respectively, and 60% (n=44) were male. A total of 740 lipohypertrophic nodules were observed, ranging from 1.8 mm to 40 mm in width. The mean (SD/range) number of nodules per participants was 10.4 (±6.2/1-29). Delineation between the dermal layers was disrupted in all current injection sites. In 52 participants (70%), there was a 30% increase in dermal thickness compared with local none injected tissue, and in 36 participants (48%) the increase was 50%. The level of thickness was >3 mm in the abdominal areas of 22 (40%) of these participants and in thighs of eight participants (17.8%). Hypoechogenic areas suggestive of necrotic tissue were observed within the lipohypertrophic nodules of 22 (30%) participants. Needle length and nodule depth were correlated (r=0.69, p<0.001). A conceptual model of the insulin exposed tissue changes observed was constructed.

CONCLUSIONS: The study confirms that insulin-exposed tissue changes are heterogenous and has provided conceptual and grading frameworks for classifying these changes. Further studies are required to establish the clinical implications of these classifications, in relation to glucose regulation and other clinical parameters.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere002553
JournalBMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care
Issue number2
Early online date7 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2021


  • Adult
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1/diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Insulin
  • Insulin, Regular, Human
  • Lipodystrophy
  • London
  • Male


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