Delayed coma in head injury: Consider cerebral fat embolism

Zwany Metting*, Lars A Rödiger, Joost G Regtien, Joukje van der Naalt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To describe a case of a young man with delayed coma after mild head injury, suggestive of cerebral fat embolism (CFE). To underline the value of MR imaging in the differential diagnosis of secondary deterioration in mild head injury.

Case report: A 21-year-old man admitted with mild head injury after a fall with facial fractures and long bone fractures. He was admitted to the intensive care unit and was mechanically ventilated. Weaning was not possible because of desaturations and pulmonary congestion. Low platelet count and anaemia developed. On several time points during his admission cerebral imaging data were obtained. Non-contrast CT on admission was normal while follow-up MRI showed extensive white matter abnormalities. These imaging abnormalities combined with the clinical presentation suggests cerebral fat embolism (CFE) as the most likely cause of secondary deterioration in our patient.

Conclusions: In head injured patients with long bone fractures one should consider cerebral fat embolism. When the classical clinical syndrome is not present, MR imaging is warranted for diagnosis and to exclude other causes of secondary deterioration. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)597-600
Number of pages4
JournalClinical neurology and neurosurgery
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Sept-2009


  • Head injury
  • Secondary deterioration
  • Coma
  • Imaging
  • Cerebral fat embolism
  • MRI

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