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One of the types of embolism, i.e. sudden closure of the arterial lumen by an embolus, is a fat embolism. It can occur after bone fractures (especially long bones) - fragments of fatty tissue torn away from their inside enter the bloodstream, blocking the arterial vessel (cerebral or coronary). This is a direct threat to your life.

Fat embolismoccurs after injury to the reserve adipose tissue or bone (yellow marrow) from torn lipocytes. Sometimes such embolism is caused by an injury to the fatty liver or by mistaken intravenous administration of oily intramuscular preparations. It can also be the result of gas gangrene, acute pancreatitis or burns. It is also mentioned as a complication after liposuction, i.e. cosmetic liposuction.

Embolican also form a thrombus, broken plaque, fragments of cancerous tissue, amniotic fluid, bacteria, parasites or gas bubbles.

How does a fat embolism manifest?

Sometimes the fat embolism remains asymptomatic. There may also be a spontaneous elimination of drops of fat from the lungs by excretion in the urine, coughing up or metabolism in the liver and serum. However, when large amounts of fat droplets enter the circulation, they can cause blockage of blood flow in the blood vessels and thus - an embolism. In general, with all embolisms, the person's well-being suddenly worsens, and they may experience sudden breathlessness, chest pain, and loss of consciousness. Dermatological symptoms may also appear - bloody ecchymosis on the skin. These petechiae are quite important because they are enough for a quick diagnosis that the patient is suffering from a fat embolism. They are found on the chest, arms, neck, and also on the oral mucosa. They appear only in 20-50 percent. patients and resolve on their own after approximately one week. Body temperature is elevated, sometimes up to 39oC. Tachycardia may also occur, which means that the heart rate increases to over 100 beats per minute.

Is a fat embolism treatable?

Treatment is to remove the embolic material that is blocking the blood flow. Most blockages require surgery. In turn, with fatty embolism, patientsreceive supportive oxygen, diuretics, and albumin, i.e. water-soluble proteins found in human plasma - they increase blood flow and also bind fatty acids. In people with recurring embolism, it is recommended to treat with anticoagulants and implant filters to trap the embolic material in the inferior vena cava.

Disease prevention

To reduce the risk of fat embolism after fractures, immobilize the injured limb before transporting the patient to the hospital. Surgery as soon as possible is also necessary. Patients are also given prophylactic oxygen and anticoagulants to prevent the accumulation of fat particles in the arteries.

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