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April 1965

Examination of CSF In Fat Embolism: Report of a Case

Author Affiliations


From the Department of Medicine, Division of Neurology, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Wash. Presently at the Division of Medical Genetics, Department of Medicine, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore.

Arch Intern Med. 1965;115(4):470-474. doi:10.1001/archinte.1965.03860160096017

Introduction  FAT EMBOLISM following trauma has been known as a clinical entity for over 100 years. The first clinical description is usually attributed to Zenker, who reported a case in 1862.1 Since then many additional cases have appeared in the literature, and much investigation has been done in an effort to delineate the mechanisms involved. Although fat embolism is associated with well-known clinical manifestations, the diagnosis is confirmed by the demonstration of systemic fat emboli in urine and septum or in kidney and skin biopsy. These tests may be either misleading or too cumbersome to be practical. This report presents a case of severe fat embolism which was diagnosed by the long neglected method of examining the spinal fluid for fat globules.

Report of Case  The patient, a 16-year-old white male, suffered multiple fractures and severe brain stem injury in an automobile accident Feb 7, 1964. Following the development