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Starvation is defined as deprivation of food for a lengthy period. Generally, it is due to lack of food, inability to eat or lack of desire to eat. It may include people that can eat but cannot absorb the nutrients in their food.

This article covers serous fat atrophy as it is classically seen in starvation.


Causes of starvation

  • Psychiatric:
    • Dementia.
    • Anorexia nervosa.
    • Disorder with delusions, e.g. schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorder - belief one is being poisoned.
  • Organic disease:
    • Malignancy, e.g. esophageal carcinoma.
    • Causes of malabsorption.
    • Vomiting.
  • Other:
    • Poverty.
    • Young age (cannot feed themself).
    • Disability/trauma - person falls and cannot get up, help not available.

Gross findings of starvation


  • Very low body mass index (BMI).
  • Membranous-appearing (thin) omentum.
  • Soft brown/myxoid material replaces fat (serous fat atrophy).

Associated conditions

Serous fat atrophy

Fat atrophy redirects to here



  • Acute febrile states.
  • AIDS.
  • Alcoholism.
  • Anorexia nervosa.
  • Cachexia.
  • Carcinomas.
  • Chronic heart failure.
  • Lymphoma.



  • Soft brown/myxoid material replaces fat.


Features - serous fat atrophy:

  • Globular cells ~3-4x the size of a RBC (24-32 micrometers) with:
    • Clear cytoplasm.
    • One small peripheral nucleus without a nucleolus.



See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Munfus DL, Menke DM (July 2009). "Case of severe serous fat atrophy". Mayo Clin. Proc. 84 (7): 570. doi:10.4065/84.7.570. PMC 2704126. PMID 19567708.
  2. Clarke, BE.; Brown, DJ.; Xipell, JM. (Jan 1983). "Gelatinous transformation of the bone marrow.". Pathology 15 (1): 85-8. PMID 6222282.