Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Overview Symptoms

Fat Embolism Overview

What is fat embolism?
A fat embolism is a large fat droplet that enters the bloodstream. A fat embolism occurs most commonly following a fracture of the pelvis, femur, or tibia. Multiple fractures are more likely to lead to fat embolism than single fractures. Symptoms of fat embolism usually begin 12 to 72 hours following the injury. Symptoms of fat embolism occur when the small fat droplets obstruct the small vessels in the lung or brain. The obstruction reduces the blood flow to parts of the lung or brain, causing those areas to malfunction.

What are the symptoms of a fat embolism?
Symptoms of a fat embolism may include rapid pulse, shortness of breath, rash, agitation, lethargy, confusion, seizures, and coma.

How does the doctor treat a fat embolism?
Treatment for a fat embolism is supportive and includes supplemental oxygen, hydration, and in more extreme cases mechanical ventilation. Surgery may be required in some cases.

Continue to Fat Embolism Symptoms

Last Updated: Aug 18, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Fat Embolism References
  1. Habashi NM, Andrews PL, Scalea TM. Therapeutic aspects of fat embolism syndrome. Injury. 2006 Oct;37 Suppl 4:S68-73. Review. Erratum in: Injury. 2007 Oct;38(10):1224. [16990063]
  2. Taviloglu K, Yanar H. Fat embolism syndrome. Surg Today. 2007;37(1):5-8. Epub 2007 Jan 1. [17186337]
  3. White T, Petrisor BA, Bhandari M. Prevention of fat embolism syndrome. Injury. 2006 Oct;37 Suppl 4:S59-67. Review. Erratum in: Injury. 2007 Oct;38(10):1224. [16990062]
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