The posttraumatic fat embolism syndrome (FES) is characterized by petechiae and pulmonary and cerebral dysfunction. A patent foramen ovale (PFO) could worsen the prognosis of FES by allowing larger emboli to reach the systemic circulation. Transcranial Doppler ultrasonography can be used to diagnose and monitor cerebral microembolism in FES.
To describe a case of successful percutaneous closure of PFO in a patient with posttraumatic FES with excellent clinical outcome.
Patient and Methods
A 17-year-old girl presented with a posttraumatic long-bone fracture complicated by typical severe FES. Transcranial Doppler disclosed multiple microembolic signals over both middle cerebral and basilar arteries. A large PFO was diagnosed by transesophageal echocardiogram. A brain magnetic resonance image with diffusion-weighted sequences showed multiple bilateral areas of abnormal diffusion in watershed territories. Percutaneous PFO closure with a buttoned device was successfully performed.
Closure of PFO was associated with marked reduction in the number and intensity of microembolic signals. Subsequent surgical repair of the fracture with the patient under transcranial Doppler monitoring was uneventful. There was excellent correlation between clinical course and microembolic signal load by transcranial Doppler.
Cerebral fat embolism after long-bone fractures can be detected in vivo and monitored over time with the use of transcranial Doppler techniques. If a PFO is present, its closure before surgical manipulation of the fracture is feasible and could have important protective effects against massive systemic embolization.