Acute respiratory distress following liposuction

Dylan E. Wessman*, Thu Thuy T. Kim, John S. Parrish

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


An active duty male presented to the emergency room with dyspnea for 2 days after undergoing liposuction surgery. Upon presentation, the patient was afebrile, tachycardic, tachypneic, and hypoxemic. The initial chest radiograph demonstrated bilateral patchy opacities and the PaO2/FiO2 ratio was <200. The patient was admitted to the medical intensive care unit for supportive care. He was treated empirically for pneumonia. Blood and sputum cultures were negative. A computed tomography angiogram of the chest was negative for pulmonary embolism but did reveal a bilateral, perihilar air space process. The patient's oxygen requirement improved and the abnormal chest radiographic findings resolved over the next 48 hours. Given his clinical presentation, negative workup, and rapid recovery, the patient was given a presumptive diagnosis of pulmonary fat embolism. Fat embolism occurs when adipocytes and small blood vessels are damaged during the liposuction procedure. Patients may present with low-grade fever, tachycardia, tachypnea, hypoxemia, and hypocapnia. The differential diagnosis includes venous thromboembolism, aspiration pneumonitis, and pneumonia. The mainstay of treatment for pulmonary fat embolism is supportive care. The risk of mortality is 5 to 15%.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)666-668
Number of pages3
JournalMilitary Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2007
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Acute respiratory distress following liposuction'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this