Multiple cerebral petechlae associated with intravascular globules of neutral fat and localized primarily within the white matter are distinctive lesions which secure the pathologic diagnosis of cerebral fat embolism. The abundance of these lesions in an unknown, but presumably small, percentage of cases of fat embolism, along with the even more widespread distribution of embolic fat droplets throughout both white and gray matter, suggest that these lesions and emboli must have a profound effect on neurologic function. Nevertheless, respiratory insufficiency is by far a more common clinical manifestation of the fat embolism syndrome and the neurologic involvement of such patients is often attributed to the secondary effects of generalized hypoxia. The following patient with overt respiratory and neurologic symptoms re-emphasizes the direct primary effect of fat emboli within the central nervous system as a cause of white matter hemorrhages and neurologic deterioration. Explanations for the selectivity of the lesions for the cerebral white matter are explored.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
- Advanced and Specialized Nursing