Fat emboli occur in all patients with long-bone fractures, but only few patients develop systemic dysfunction, particularly the triad of skin, brain, and lung dysfunction known as the fat embolism syndrome (FES). Here we review the FES literature under different subheadings.The incidence of FES varies from 1-29%. The etiology may be traumatic or, rarely, nontraumatic. Various factors increase the incidence of FES. Mechanical and biochemical theories have been proposed for the pathophysiology of FES. The clinical manifestations include respiratory and cerebral dysfunction and a petechial rash. Diagnosis of FES is difficult. The other causes for the above-mentioned organ dysfunction have to be excluded. The clinical criteria along with imaging studies help in diagnosis. FES can be detected early by continuous pulse oximetry in high-risk patients. Treatment of FES is essentially supportive. Medications, including steroids, heparin, alcohol, and dextran, have been found to be ineffective.
Keywords: Brain; clinical criteria; fat emboli; imaging studies; lung.