Hydrophilic polymer emboli: an under-recognized iatrogenic cause of ischemia and infarct

Mod Pathol. 2010 Jul;23(7):921-30. doi: 10.1038/modpathol.2010.74. Epub 2010 Mar 19.


With the increased use of percutaneous intravascular diagnostic and therapeutic devices, there is potential for embolization of materials introduced into the vasculature. We report nine cases of foreign body emboli in patients who underwent vascular procedures using hydrophilic-coated medical devices. The procedures performed included cardiac catheterization (four cases), diagnostic cerebral angiography (two cases), therapeutic cerebral angiography with coil embolization of intracerebral aneurysm (one case), lower extremity angiography (one case), and/or orthotopic cadaveric organ transplantation (three cases). Other procedures in these patients included hemodialysis and peripheral arterial or central venous catheterization. Clinical sequelae ranged from undetectable (no symptoms) to pulmonary infarction, stroke, ongoing gangrene, and/or death occurring within days to weeks of suspected embolization of foreign material. Microscopic findings in biopsy or autopsy tissue revealed aggregates of amorphous or lamellated, non-refractile, non-polarizable, predominantly basophilic foreign substances occluding intrapulmonary, intracerebral, or peripheral arteries. This is the largest series documenting embolization of polymer gel materials. Polymer gel is now widely used on several devices for interventional procedures worldwide, and we suspect that complications associated with iatrogenic embolization of this substance are under-recognized.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Catheterization / adverse effects*
  • Catheterization / instrumentation
  • Embolism / etiology*
  • Embolism / pathology
  • Female
  • Foreign Bodies / complications
  • Gels / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Infarction / etiology*
  • Infarction / pathology
  • Ischemia / etiology*
  • Ischemia / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymers / adverse effects*
  • Young Adult


  • Gels
  • Polymers