Published online Jan 16, 2021. doi: 10.12998/wjcc.v9.i2.476
Peer-review started: August 27, 2020
First decision: November 3, 2020
Revised: November 9, 2020
Accepted: November 21, 2020
Article in press: November 21, 2020
Published online: January 16, 2021
Fat embolism syndrome (FES) is a rare disease characterized by pulmonary distress, neurologic symptoms, and petechial rash and seriously threatens human life and health. It is still neglected clinically because of the lack of verifiable diagnostic criteria and atypical clinical symptoms. No studies on FES with pulmonary embolism (PE) and tympanic membrane perforation have been reported to date. Here, we report a rare case of concomitant FES, PE and tympanic membrane perforation after surgery in a patient with a tibiofibular fracture.
A 39-year-old man presented with right lower extremity pain due to a car accident while driving a motorbike on the road. X-ray and computed tomography scans revealed a fracture of the right mid-shaft tibia and proximal fibula categorized as a type A2 fracture according to the AO classification. A successful minimally invasive operation was performed 3 d after the injury. Postoperatively, the patient developed sudden symptoms of respiratory distress and hearing loss. Early diagnosis was made, and supportive treatments were used at the early stage of FES. Seven days after surgery, he presented a clear recovery from respiratory symptoms. The outcome of fracture healing was excellent, and his hearing of the left ear was mildly impaired at the last follow-up of 4 mo.
Concomitant FES, PE and tympanic membrane perforation are very rare but represent potentially fatal complications of trauma or orthopedic surgery and present with predominantly pulmonary symptoms. Early diagnosis and treatment can reduce the mortality of FES, and prevention is better than a cure.
Core Tip: Fat embolism syndrome (FES) is a rare complication after internal fixation. This case suggests that any clinical manifestations of patients should be identified after internal fixation to avoid delays in treatment. Even with a lack of verifiable diagnostic criteria for FES, it should be highly suspected for patients with sudden hypoxemia and atypical neurological symptoms. Early diagnosis and supportive treatment are still recommended.