S. E. Brandt, W. S. Zeegers, T. L. Ceelen

October 1998, Volume 7, Issue 5, pp 426 - 428 Case report Read Full Article 10.1007/s005860050102

First Online: 19 October 1998

Fatal pulmonary fat embolism is a rare complication in elective orthopaedic surgery. It has been described previously as occuring during intramedullary manipulations and in trauma patients. We present the case of a 56-year-old slender housewife with severe radicular complaints because of lumbar spinal stenosis. She underwent a dorsal bilateral decompression of L4/L5 and L5/S1 in combination with an instrumented dorsolateral spinal fusion. Transpedicular fixation of L4/L5/S1 was accomplished by titanium Rodegerdts implants. Both iliac crests were used for harvesting autologous bone grafts. The intra-operative course was uneventful; however, 6 h after surgery, despite resuscitation, she expired. Autopsy revealed macroscopic gross fatty infiltration of lung parenchyma with oedema. We believe there is no relation between this complication and the transpedicular instrumentation. The position of the patient and the extent of the harvesting technique could be critical in preventing this serious complication.

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