Integrating Fat Embolism Syndrome Scoring Indices in Sickle Cell Disease: A Practice Management Review

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Fat embolism syndrome (FES) has been described in the literature as a rare complication of sickle cell disease (SCD). A review article published in 2005 reported 24 cases of FES associated with SCD. In many cases, a definitive diagnosis of FES in SCD is made on autopsy because of the lack of early recognition and the paucity of sensitive and specific testing for this syndrome. Patients with FES usually have a fulminant, rapidly deteriorating clinical course with mortality occurring within the first 24 hours. We postulate that FES is not well recognized in SCD and that FES scores are useful diagnostic tools in patients with SCD. We queried the electronic medical records with the diagnostic codes for SCD with acute chest syndrome (ACS), pulmonary embolism, or acute respiratory distress syndrome admitted to our hospital from 2008 to 2016 to identify patients suspected of having FES. In addition, we performed an extensive literature review to evaluate the management practice of pediatric patients with FES and SCD from 1966 to 2016. Six patients met our selection criteria from the hospital records, and 4 case reports from the literature search were also included. We applied the Gurd and Wilson criteria and the Schonfeld Fat Embolism Index to identify patients who met the criteria for FES. Nine patients fulfilled Gurd and Wilson criteria, and 9 patients who were evaluable met the Schonfeld criteria for FES. A rapidly deteriorating clinical course in a patient with SCD presenting with ACS or severe vaso-occlusive crisis should trigger a high index of suspicion for FES. Gurd and Wilson criteria or the Schonfeld Fat Embolism Index are useful diagnostic tools for FES in SCD.

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