Prone Positioning for Management of Fat Embolism Syndrome in a Patient with Spine Fracture; An Unusual Scenario and Review of Literature

Abhay Tyagi, Richa Aggarwal, Kapil Dev. Soni, Anjan Trikha


Fat embolism syndrome is a rare but fatal complication seen commonly in patients with polytrauma. Its earliest manifestation is hypoxemia due to deposition of fat globules in pulmonary circulation which can progress to severe acute respiratory distress syndrome, the treatment of which is mainly supportive. We describe the case of a 17-year-old male who was admitted in our intensive care unit (ICU) for severe hypoxemia due to fat embolism. He had burst fracture of 5th lumbar vertebra with canal compromise along with other fractures. Failing conventional ventilation, the patient was placed in prone position taking proper precautions in positioning giving due consideration to his unstable lumbar spine. There was no neurological insult and in the next two days, he was weaned off from the ventilator. Though prone position is relatively contraindicated in patients with unstable spine, we employed early prone positioning taking adequate precautions, the benefit of which we believe outweighed the risk.


Fat embolism; Prone position; Trauma; ARDS

Full Text: