Have You Heard of a Fatty Embolism? Here's How to Know if You're at Risk or Not

fatty embolism, broke fracture

A fatty embolism can cause life-threatening conditions. There are several risk factors that can make you more prone to developing one.


A fatty embolism is when fat tissue, for some reason, starts traveling through your circulation system then clogs a blood vessel. If the blood vessel isn't major or vital, then the damage is probably not too serious and even reversible. But if the blood vessels in your heart or lungs get clogged by a fat embolus, it can cause a fatal heart attack.

What causes a fatty embolism? Here are risk factors and conditions that can cause a fat embolus to enter your bloodstream:

Bone fractures. Ninety percent of fatty embolism cases are caused by bone fractures. Whether it's because you've broken your bone from physical trauma, or because a doctor was operating on your bone – fat from the bone marrow can escape from the fracture and become an embolus. If you're in one of these situations, you can rest safe and sound if 36 hours have passed and you haven't developed a fat embolus. This is the typical window of when they develop after a fracture or bone surgery.

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Pancreatitis, burns, and childbirth. There are various other conditions that can cause a fatty embolus, including pancreatitis, burns, and childbirth.

Liposuction. Sometimes the shortcut to a healthier body via liposuction can have its risks. Since liposuction involves destroying fat cells, some fat inevitably escapes into the bloodstream, which can cause a fat embolism. Researchers note one such case.

Brazilian Butt Lift. The Brazilian Butt Lift surgery is a purely cosmetic procedure where the buttocks is injected with fat removed from other parts of your body by liposuction. The procedure attempts to make the buttocks more voluminous, which some people find desirable. There are two dangers in the procedure that can cause a fat embolus. The first is the fact that liposuction is involved. The second is that once the fat is injected into the buttocks, there's a chance the body may absorb some of the fat into the bloodstream. In fact, one woman who had the procedure done in Florida died of a fatty embolism resulting from the procedure.

If you're over 60. With every decade after 60 years of age, your risk of a pulmonary embolism is multiplied by two. That means that if you end up with one of the above risk factors, your risk is actually inherently greater than someone below 60.

Knowing the risk factors for a potentially fatal fatty embolism is important. This information should better educate you on the risks of certain cosmetic procedures, like liposuction. You also have a better understanding of what could be potential complications of breaking a bone or bone surgery.