JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Bronchoalveolar lavage in trauma patients for diagnosis of fat embolism syndrome.

Chest 1992 November
Fat embolism syndrome (FES) is a rare but serious complication occurring after long bone fractures. Presence of fat droplets in cells obtained by bronchoalveolar lavage has been proposed as a specific tool for FES diagnosis in trauma patients. We evaluated this technique over a 15-month period in 85 patients. Twenty-eight patients were excluded. The remaining 57 patients were divided into three groups: group 1, 26 patients without trauma as control; group 2, 22 patients with trauma but without evidence of FES; and group 3, nine patients with trauma and evidence of FES. Six of 26 patients in group 1 and nine of 22 patients in group 2 exhibited fat droplets in alveolar macrophages, whereas three of nine patients of group 3 had not. This study suggests that (1) presence of fat droplets in alveolar macrophages is not a reliable method for diagnosis of FES after long bone trauma, and (2) many conditions are associated with fat droplets in alveolar macrophages.

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