(redirected from fat embolism)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Wikipedia.


1. the occlusion of a blood vessel by an embolus
2. Botany the blocking of a xylem vessel by an air bubble
3. RC Church a prayer inserted in the canon of the Mass between the Lord's Prayer and the breaking of the bread
4. another name (not in technical use) for embolus
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



disruption of the blood supply to an organ or tissue owing to blockage of a blood vessel by any type of particle transported by the blood or lymph stream but not normally circulating therein.

Circulatory disorders are aggravated by reflex vasospasms and secondary thrombosis. In the case of obstruction of small vessels, blood circulation can be quickly restored by collateral circulation, so that the embolism may be described as incomplete. Thromboembolism, which is caused by a thrombus or part of a thrombus that has broken free, is the type that is most important in practical terms. Emboli from peripheral veins usually lodge in the basin of the pulmonary artery. If there are defects in the septa of the heart, the emboli may reach the arterial system, bypassing the pulmonary circulation; this is called a paradoxical embolism. Embolism in the systemic circulation arteries is usually caused by the breaking away of thrombotic material from the left ventricular valves or walls, as in endocarditis, in heart diseases, and in aneurysm of the left ventricle.

Other possible types are tissue and fat embolisms (especially after extensive and severe injuries or fractures of the long tubular bones), air or gas embolisms (as in the case of open heart surgery, injuries to the large veins of the neck and chest, and decompression sickness), bacillary embolisms (obstruction by aggregations of microbes), and embolisms caused by foreign bodies—mainly by small fragments in gunshot wounds—which are sometimes moved by the force of gravity against the direction of the blood stream (retrograde, or venous, embolism).

Treatment includes the use of anticoagulants, thrombolytic and spasmolytic agents, antibiotics, therapeutic recompression (for decompression sickness), and surgical removal of the embolus (embolectomy).


Chazov, E. I. Trombozy i embolii v klinike vnutrennikh boleznei. Moscow-Warsaw, 1966.
Tregubenko, A. I. Trombozy i embolii v khirurgii. Kiev, 1972.
Perlick, E. Antikoagulanten. Leipzig, 1964.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


The blocking of a blood vessel by an embolus.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
Magnetic resonance imaging may be useful in patients who present with neurological features of fat embolism but with a normal computed tomography brain image.
Table 1 outlines the Gurd and Wilson criteria for diagnosis of fat embolism [13].
Shaikh, "Emergency management of fat embolism syndrome," Journal of Emergencies, Trauma, and Shock, vol.
Fat embolism was first described by Zenker [1] in 1861 in a railroad worker with a thoracolumbar crush injury.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain revealed multiple bilateral acute cerebral infarcts with restricted diffusion areas in a "starfield" pattern favoring the diagnosis of cerebral fat embolism [Figure 2].
Amos, "Bone marrow necrosis and fat embolism syndrome in sickle cell disease: Increased susceptibility of patients with non-SS genotypes and a possible association with human parvovirus B19 infection," Blood Reviews, vol.
In our series one case had intraoperatively fat embolism. In 1998 Utvag et al [10] quoted that there is no evidence to show that the degree of reaming significantly affect healing pattern.
Most fractures are sustained in young adults during high velocity injuries such as motor vehicle accidents, auto-pedestrian accidents, motor cycle accidents, falls from heights or gunshots.1 Fractures of the shaft of femur can be life threatening due to an open wound, fat embolism, ARDS or resultant multiple organ failure.2 Even with survival after initial trauma3 many patients suffer major physical Impairment as a result of these fractures.
Vichinsky and associates noted that the acute pain felt by the patient probably indicated that a fat embolism "had injured the bone, caused necrosis, and then the embolism would progress to the lung." The vaso-occlusion of small vessels in ribs, sterum, or other bones by sickled hemoglobin may also by itself be responsible for acute pain crisis.
The plaintiff developed brain damage from fat embolism following hip surgery, and alleged that prolonged malleting of a hip prosthesis was the cause of the fat embolism syndrome (FES).
Current thrombolytic agents normally cannot be used in an immediate post operative setting; however, a better understanding of the possibility of fat embolism could alter therapy in the near future.
Upon their insistence a tissue analysis was ordered, which showed that cause of death was a pulmonary fat embolism, most likely caused by bone marrow entering the bloodstream as a result of the spinal surgery, according to a the health ministry probe ordered after the new evidence came to light.