Brazilian Journal of Pulmonology

ISSN (on-line): 1806-3756 | ISSN (printed): 1806-3713


Publication continuous and bimonthly

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Current Issue: 2018 - Volume 44 - Number 3 (May/June)


Fat embolism syndrome: chest CT findings

Síndrome da embolia gordurosa: achados de TC de tórax


Alessandro Graziani1; a; Chiara Carli Moretti2; b; Federica Mirici Cappa3; c


1. Dipartimento di Medicina Interna, Ospedale S. Maria Delle Croci, Ravenna (RA) Italia.
2. Dipartimento di Radiodiagnostica, Ospedale Infermi Faenza, Faenza (RA) Italia.
3. Dipartimento di Medicina Interna, Ospedale Infermi Faenza, Faenza (RA) Italia.
a.; b.; c.




Fat embolism syndrome (FES), characterized by the combination of acute respiratory failure, central nervous system involvement, and petechiae, can occur after a trauma or secondary to a disease.(1,2) Here, we describe the case of a 72-year-old woman admitted to our hospital due to traumatic pertrochanteric fracture of the left femur. The patient had a medical history of systemic lupus erythematosus, positivity for antiphospholipid antibodies, deep vein thrombosis, use of a ventricular demand rate-responsive pacemaker, and aortic valve replacement due to severe stenosis. At admission, she was hemodynamically stable. Thirty-six hours after admission, she underwent orthopedic surgery involving the use of gamma nails (Stryker, Kalamazoo, MI, USA). On the first postoperative day, she presented with acute dyspnea, confusion, and agitation. Her vital signs were as follows: blood pressure, 100/60 mmHg; HR, 103 bpm; temperature, 37.1°C; RR, 26 breaths/min; and SpO2, 75% on room air. Contrast-enhanced CT scans of the chest excluded pulmonary artery embolism and revealed peripherally located ground-glass opacities and bilateral patchy consolidations, as well as dilation of the pulmonary artery, right atrium, and right ventricle (Figures 1 and 2). Ten days later, a control CT scan showed complete regression of the lesions (Figure 3). Therefore, findings on CT scans can reflect the pathophysiology of FES and contribute to its diagnosis.(3)


1. Akhtar S. Fat embolism. Anesthesiol Clin. 2009;27(3):533-50, table of contents.
2. Gurd AR, Wilson RI. The fat embolism syndrome. J Bone Joint Surg Br.1974;56B(3):408-16.
3. Malagari K, Economopoulos N, Stoupis C, Daniil Z, Papiris S, Müller NL, et al. High-resolution CT findings in mild pulmonary fat embolism. Chest. 2003;123(4):1196-201.



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