Fat embolism is one of the tragedies that haunt the efforts of the orthopedic surgeon. True, it occurs but rarely, but the dramatic suddenness of its onset and the fatality of its outcome create a profound impression.
Fat embolism occurs when fluid fat occludes the capillaries of important organs. The fat may come from any of the fat depots of the body, but for mechanical reasons, which will be discussed later, the fat contained in bone marrow is the commonest source. Normally, fat is stored in the form of globules, fluid at body temperature, within the cell envelops of fat cells. Before fat embolism can occur, this fat must be set free by rupture of the cell membranes. Accidental or operative trauma is the usual agent that ruptures the cell membranes and sets free a quantity of fluid fat. Since bone marrow is the common source of the fat that
HARRIS RI. FAT EMBOLISM: CANADIAN CHAIRMAN'S ADDRESS. JAMA. 1935;105(13):1013–1016. doi:10.1001/jama.1935.02760390007002
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