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Computed Tomography Diagnosis of Macroscopic Pulmonary Fat Embolism

Ravenel, James G. M.D.; Heyneman, Laura E. M.D.; McAdams, H. Page M.D.

Case Reports

Pulmonary fat embolism probably occurs commonly after major orthopedic injuries and after orthopedic surgery. Furthermore, tiny fat emboli can often be shown by transesophageal echocardiography during orthopedic surgery. However, large macroscopic are rarely identified radiologically. Macroscopic fat emboli have been previously described in the common femoral vein and inferior vena cava on abdominal imaging. To the authors' knowledge, a macroscopic fat embolus in the pulmonary arteries has not been previously described. The authors report a case of a woman who, on computed tomography, had a large fat embolus after intramedullary rod placement for an isolated left femur fracture.

From the Department of Radiology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. Laura E. Heyneman, Department of Radiology, Box 3808, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710. E-mail:

© 2002 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.