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Fat embolism syndrome: Clinical and imaging considerations: Case report and review of literature

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Author(s): Shaikh Nissar | Parchani Ashok | Bhat Venkatraman | Kattren Marie

Journal: Indian Journal of Critical Care Medicine
ISSN 0972-5229

Volume: 12;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 32;
Date: 2008;
Original page

Keywords: Fat embolism syndrome | imaging | magnetic resonance imaging

ABSTRACT
Fat embolism syndrome (FES) is a serious clinical disorder occurring after trauma, orthopedic procedures and rarely in non-traumatic patients. Fat emboli develop in nearly all patients with bone fractures, but they are usually asymptomatic. Small number of patients develop signs and symptoms of various organ system dysfunction due to either mechanical obstruction of capillaries by fat emboli or due to hydrolysis of fat to fatty acids. A triad of lung, brain and skin involvement develop after an asymptomatic period of 24 to 72 hours. This symptom complex is called FES. The incidence reported is up to 30%, but many mild cases may recover unnoticed. Diagnosis of fat embolism is clinical with nonspecific, insensitive diagnostic test results. Treatment of fat embolism syndrome remains supportive and in most cases can be prevented by early fixation of large bone factures. Here we report two cases of traumatic fat embolism, which were diagnosed initially by Gurd′s criteria and subsequently confirmed by typical appearance on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain in these patients. These patients were successfully treated with supportive management. In conclusion, diagnosis of FES needs high index of suspicion, exclusion of other conditions and use of clinical criteria in combination with imaging. Magnetic resonance imaging of the brain is of great importance in diagnosis and management of these patients.
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