Man with the horse’s neck
A man in China diagnosed with Madelung disease found lumps progressively grew on his throat and neck after 30 years of alcoholism

A man in China developed huge fatty lumps on his neck as a result of a very rare condition called Madelung disease. The condition, also known as lipomatosis, mostly affects men who have a history of alcohol abuse. The condition is characterised by fatty deposits in various areas of the body, including the neck, arms and legs.

The man, Hong Shu, drank two litres of the Chinese spirit baiju (alcohol volume 40-60%) every day for more than 30 years. Over time, he became known as "the man with the horse's neck". He was struggling to eat, sleep and breath after symptoms – which began to develop a decade ago – worsened.

He said it started with swelling behind his ears, but eventually spread to his throat and took over his neck. It was so severe the swelling measured 15cm in width and 14cm in length. Two lumps also developed on the back of his neck measuring 18cm in width.

Doctors in Guangzhou in southern China have surgically removed the fatty deposits over three operations. He has now been discharged from hospital.

The cause of Madelung disease is unknown, but scientists think it has something to do with mutations in mitochondrial DNA or through alcoholism.