© 2014, The Author(s). Background: Primary lipoma arborescens (LA) is a rare, benign intra-articular hyperplastic tumor that has been associated with osteoarthritis (OA). The aim of this study was to determine whether prompt synovectomy could avoid progressive joint degeneration in cases of primary LA of the knee.Materials and methods: A review of currently available literature about the disease was carried out. The clinical, histological and radiological records of a series of nine knees with primary LA diagnosed and treated between 2002 and 2012 were retrospectively reviewed. Eight of the knees had histological confirmation of LA and none had evidence of condropathy on the initial magnetic resonance image or degenerative changes at the initial radiographic examination.Results: At the final follow-up no evidence of OA was found in the three knees that underwent synovectomy when symptoms did not last more than 1 year. The five knees in which synovectomy was delayed developed progressive joint degeneration.Conclusion: In this series, primary LA of the knee involved the development of early osteoarthritis when prompt synovectomy was not performed. Timely synovectomy is strongly recommended, if not mandatory.Level of evidence: IV.