Cerebral Fat Embolism: Recognition, Complications, and Prognosis

Daniel Agustín Godoy, Mario Di Napoli, Alejandro A. Rabinstein

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Fat embolism syndrome (FES) is a rare syndrome caused by embolization of fat particles into multiple organs including the brain. It typically manifests with petechial rash, deteriorating mental status, and progressive respiratory insufficiency, usually occurring within 24–48 h of trauma with long-bone fractures or an orthopedic surgery. The diagnosis of FES is based on clinical and imaging findings, but requires exclusion of alternative diagnoses. Although there is no specific treatment for FES, prompt recognition is important because it can avoid unnecessary interventions and clarify prognosis. Patients with severe FES can become critically ill, but even comatose patients with respiratory failure may recover favorably. Prophylactic measures, such as early stabilization of fractures and certain intraoperative techniques, may help decrease the incidence and severity of FES.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)358-365
Number of pages8
JournalNeurocritical care
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018


  • Cerebral fat embolism
  • Coma
  • Fat embolism syndrome
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Paroxysmal sympathetic hyperactivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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