The fat embolism syndrome as a cause of paraplegia

Siert Ta Peters, Marieke J Witvliet, Anke Vennegoor, Birkitt Ten Tusscher, Bauke Boden, Frank W Bloemers

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The fat embolism syndrome is a well-known complication in trauma patients. We describe a rare case of traumatic fat embolism that leads to paraplegia. A 19-year-old male motorcycle accident victim was presented to our hospital. After stabilization and trauma survey, he was diagnosed with bilateral femur fractures, a spleen laceration and a tear in the inferior vena cava, for which damage control surgery was performed. Post-operatively, the patient became paraplegic and developed a fluctuating consciousness, respiratory distress and petechiae. Fat embolism syndrome was considered as the most plausible cause of the paraplegia. The fat embolism syndrome is seen in approximately 1% of trauma patients, mostly those with bilateral fractures of the femur. Prevention of the syndrome depends on early stabilization of fractures. However, even with optimal care, this syndrome can still occur and may have dramatic consequences, as we demonstrate in this case.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2050313X18789318
JournalSAGE open medical case reports
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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