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Nigerian Journal of Medicine

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Fat embolism syndrome: a review of the literature

F Mustapha Adekunle, A Adesokan Olalekan

Abstract


Fat embolism syndrome is a serious manifestation of fat embolism phenomenon characterized clinically by triad of dyspnoea, petechiae and mental confusion and usually follows long bone fractures. Its classic presentation consists of an asymptomatic interval followed by pulmonary and neurologic manifestations combined with petechial haemorrhages. The syndrome follows a biphasic clinical course. Unlike other embolic events, the vascular occlusion in fat embolism is often temporary or incomplete since fat globules do not completely obstruct capillary blood flow because of their fluidity and deformability. The late presentation is thought to be a result of hydrolysis of the fat to more irritating free fatty acids which then migrate to other organs via the systemic circulation. There is no specific therapy for fat embolism syndrome; prevention, early diagnosis, and adequate symptomatic treatment are of paramount importance. It is a self-limiting disease and treatment is mainly supportive

Keywords: Long bone fracture, fat emboli, petechiae and supportive treatment




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