Pulmonary and Systemic Fat Embolization after Medullary Canal Pressurization: A Hemodynamic and Histologic Investigation in the Dog

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BackgroundThe potential to produce fat embolism may be important in determining the ideal method and timing of fracture treatment in patients with preexisting lung injury.MethodsFour dogs underwent femoral and tibial canal reaming and pressurization. Blood gas samples were analyzed, and pulmonary arterial pressure was monitored at 1 and 72 hours. Animals were killed 72 hours postoperatively, and the lungs, kidneys, and brain were examined histologically and compared with equivalent specimens from four control dogs that had not undergone femoral and tibial canal reaming and pressurization.ResultsPostmortem, intravascular fat persisted for 72 hours after induction of pulmonary fat embolism. Mean PaO2 was unchanged from baseline at 72 hours after canal pressurization. Canal pressurization caused a sustained increase in pulmonary arterial pressure (p = 0.02) for 1 hour after canal pressurization. The mean pulmonary edema score at 72 hours was 29 +/- 3. Only a scant polymorph infiltrate (zero to two polymorphs per high-power field) was present at any time. No hyaline membranes were seen at any time. The percentage area occupied by intravascular fat in the lungs was 0.0214 +/- 0.0058 at 72 hours. No signs of ischemia or inflammation were seen in either the cerebral or the renal specimens.ConclusionThis study is the first to show that intravascular fat persists in the lungs, kidneys, and brain for 72 hours after canal pressurization and, by itself, does not cause pathologic evidence of acute inflammation.

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