Cholesterol crystal embolization: a review of 221 cases in the English literature

Angiology. 1987 Oct;38(10):769-84. doi: 10.1177/000331978703801007.


Cholesterol crystal embolization (CCE) frequently presents with nonspecific manifestations that mimic other systemic diseases. The authors reviewed 221 cases of histologically proven CCE in the English literature to define the clinical, laboratory, and pathologic characteristics of this disorder. CCE affected predominantly elderly males (mean age sixty-six) with a frequent history of hypertension (61%), atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (44%), renal failure (34%), and aortic aneurysms (25%) at presentation. At least one possible predisposing factor was present in 31% and included operative and radiological vascular procedures and the use of anticoagulants. Cutaneous findings (34%) and renal failure (50%) were two of the most common clinical findings throughout the course of CCE. The nonspecific signs and symptoms included: fever (7%), weight loss (7%), myalgias (4%), and headache (3%). Premortem diagnoses were established in 31% of patients most commonly by biopsy of the muscle, skin, and kidney. Mortality was high (81%) and was most commonly due to multifactorial, cardiac, and renal etiologies. The authors conclude that CCE should be strongly considered in elderly patients with atherosclerotic vascular disease who have the onset of renal insufficiency and cutaneous manifestations. CCE may be confirmed by a skin or muscle biopsy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cholesterol*
  • Crystallization
  • Embolism* / diagnosis
  • Embolism* / metabolism
  • Embolism* / pathology
  • Humans


  • Cholesterol