Jean Chastre, MD; Jean-Yves Fagon, MD; Paul Soler, MD; Anika Fichelle, MD; Marie-Christine Dombret, MD; Denis Huten, MD; Allan J. Hance, MD; Claude Gibert, MD
Objective: To evaluate the usefulness of bronchoalveolar lavage in establishing the diagnosis of the fat embolism syndrome in trauma patients with long-bone fractures.
Design: Case series.
Setting: Referral hospital.
Patients: Eighteen trauma patients with long-bone fractures, including 5 with definite fat embolism syndrome, 5 in whom the diagnosis had been clinically suspected but was impossible to confirm or exclude before bronchoscopy, and 8 with no clinical evidence of the syndrome. Control groups included 9 patients without previous trauma who developed the adult respiratory distress syndrome for various reasons and 15 normal volunteers.
Measurements and Main Results: Each patient had fiber-optic bronchoscopy with bronchoalveolar lavage, and the percentage of lavage cells containing intracellular fat droplets stained with oil red 0 were determined. In the five patients with definite fat embolism syndrome, light microscopic study of bronchoalveolar cells stained with oil red 0 showed many large intracellular fat droplets (mean percentage of cells containing fat droplets, 63%; range, 31% to 82%), whereas less than 2% of cells recovered by lavage from trauma patients with no clinical evidence of the syndrome, from patients with the adult respiratory distress syndrome, or from normal volunteers contained such inclusions. Use of the same technique in the five patients with possible fat embolism syndrome permitted the immediate identification of three patients in whom this diagnosis was later confirmed by subsequent autopsy or clinical follow-up.
Conclusions: The identification of fat droplets within cells recovered by bronchoalveolar lavage in trauma patients may be a rapid and specific method for establishing the diagnosis of the fat embolism syndrome.
Chastre J, Fagon J, Soler P, Fichelle A, Dombret M, Huten D, et al. Bronchoalveolar Lavage for Rapid Diagnosis of the Fat Embolism Syndrome in Trauma Patients. Ann Intern Med. ;113:583–588. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-113-8-583
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 1990;113(8):583-588.
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