Neurocritical Care

, Volume 29, Issue 3, pp 358–365 | Cite as

Cerebral Fat Embolism: Recognition, Complications, and Prognosis

  • Daniel Agustín GodoyEmail author
  • Mario Di Napoli
  • Alejandro A. Rabinstein
Review Article


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.


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


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflicts of interest

All the authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel Agustín Godoy
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Mario Di Napoli
    • 3
    • 4
  • Alejandro A. Rabinstein
    • 5
  1. 1.Neurointensive Care UnitSanatorio PasteurCatamarcaArgentina
  2. 2.Intensive Care UnitHospital San Juan BautistaCatamarcaArgentina
  3. 3.Neurological ServiceSan Camillo de’ Lellis General HospitalRietiItaly
  4. 4.Neurological SectionSMDN—Center for Cardiovascular Medicine and Cerebrovascular Disease PreventionSulmonaItaly
  5. 5.Neuroscience Critical Care UnitMayo ClinicRochesterUSA

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