Detection of pulmonary cement embolism after balloon kyphoplasty : should conventional radiographs become routine?

Acta orthopaedica Belgica

PubMedID: 24205776

Bliemel C, Buecking B, Struewer J, Piechowiak EI, Ruchholtz S, Krueger A. Detection of pulmonary cement embolism after balloon kyphoplasty : should conventional radiographs become routine?. Acta Orthop Belg. 2013;79(4):444-50.
Fatal pulmonary cement embolism is the worst complication after balloon kyphoplasty. Therefore the authors conducted a prospective study about the use of postoperative plain radiographs of the chest as a screening tool for the detection of pulmonary cement embolism. More specifically, they tried to determine its incidence. Postoperative AP and lateral plain radiographs of the chest confirmed this diagnosis in only one out of 94 patients (1%). Systematic use of CT would probably have led to a higher incidence. To the authors' knowledge this is the only study assessing the incidence of pulmonary cement embolism after balloon kyphoplasty. Computed tomography confirmed the diagnosis in the single patient affected , but she remained asymptomatic. Given the low incidence, routine postoperative plain radiographs of the chest do not seem to be indicated in asymptomatic patients, although the radiation exposure is low. Reasonable suspicion (dyspnea, peroperative findings via image amplifier) warrants computed tomography for confirmation of the diagnosis.