1. Gluteal adipose tissue was examined in 13 patients with generalized adiposis dolorosa, a clinical condition characterized by painful adiposity with a chronic intractable course. The total metabolic activity of fat cells, isolated by collagenase and suspended in Krebs-Ringer bicarbonate buffer with glucose and insulin, was assessed by the measurement of heat production at 37°C using microcalorimetry.
2. Fat cells were markedly enlarged; their metabolic activity expressed in terms of μW/g, but not in pW/cell, was significantly decreased when compared with both lean and weight-matched non-painful subjects. Both mean values were, however, significantly higher than in grossly obese subjects with similar mean cell size. Heat production as expressed per g of tissue, but not per cell, was inversely correlated with body mass index. One additional patient had unilateral disease, and fat cells from the painful side had a lower heat production than cells from the unaffected side.
3. The fatty acid composition of adipose tissue, as determined by g.c., revealed a significantly increased proportion of monounsaturated (18:1 and 16:1) at the expense of saturated (14:0 and 18:0) fatty acids compared with healthy control subjects. The activity of adipose tissue lipoprotein lipase was slightly, but not significantly, decreased.
4. It is concluded that a metabolic pathogenetic factor cannot be ruled out in adiposis dolorosa. As the results do not explain the nature of the diffuse pain, further studies need to be performed.