We present two cases of cerebral fat embolism. Both patients were 21-years old, male and involved in high impact road traffic collisions with no immediate neurological deficits.
Patient A underwent intra-medullary nailing of right tibia/fibular fractures within 12 hours, and had external fixation for bilateral distal femoral fractures. Post-operatively, GCS was 6. Subsequent intracranial MR imaging showed widespread cerebral hypointense punctate foci on SWI (susceptibility-weighted imaging), some with associated restriction on DWI (diffusion-weighted imaging). Despite initial period of coma lasting weeks and inpatient admission over 5 months, he has been discharged to a neuro-rehabilitation unit and continues to show physical and cognitive improvement (MRS score of 3).
Patient B underwent intra-medullary nailing for a femoral shaft fracture within 24 hours. Post-operatively, GCS was 9, he developed a petechial rash and became hypoxic. MR brain showed bilateral centrum semiovale DWI restriction, and again, widespread SWI punctate abnormalities. He was discharged within weeks and currently lives at home with his parents (MRS of 2).
These cases show the spectrum of radiological abnormalities, the utility of SWI, and highlight that although neurological injury may be severe, there is potential for significant recovery.
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