Pulmonary polymethylmethacrylate embolism is a rare but potentially fatal complication of percutaneous vertebroplasty. Clinical signs are typical for pulmonary embolism: they include respiratory distress, hypotension, and decreases in end-tidal CO(2). We report a case of fatal pulmonary polymethylmethacrylate embolism during percutaneous vertebroplasty that initially presented with hypertension (arterial blood pressure 190/90 mm Hg), normocardia, and hypercapnia (PaCO(2) 96 mm Hg), along with loss of consciousness. Several pieces of polymethylmethacrylate were found in the pulmonary vasculature at autopsy.
Implications: Osteoporotic spine fractures are increasingly treated by injection of bone cement into the vertebral body. Polymethylmethacrylate embolism is a rare but potentially fatal complication. We report on a case of polymethylmethacrylate embolism that was at first unrecognized because of uncharacteristic signs and symptoms.