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Open Access Case report

Confusion after spine injury: cerebral fat embolism after traumatic rupture of a Tarlov cyst: Case report

Corina M Duja1, Christophe Berna1, Stéphane Kremer2, Claude Géronimus1, Jacques Kopferschmitt1 and Pascal Bilbault1*

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Emergency and Intensive Care, Faculty of Medicine, Hôpital de Hautepierre, Strasbourg, France

2 Department of Neuroradiology, Faculty of Medicine, Hôpital de Hautepierre, Strasbourg, France

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BMC Emergency Medicine 2010, 10:18  doi:10.1186/1471-227X-10-18

Published: 15 August 2010



Acute low back pain is a very common symptom and reason for many medical consultations. In some unusual circumstances it could be linked to a rare aetiology.

Case presentation

We report a 70-year-old man with an 8-month history of left posterior thigh and leg pain who had sudden confusion after a fall from standing. It was due to cerebral fat embolism suspected by computed tomography scan, later confirmed by brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A spinal MRI scan was then performed and revealed a sacral fracture which drained into an unknown perineurial cyst (Tarlov cyst). Under medical observation the patient fully recovered within three weeks.


Sacral perineurial cysts are rare, however they remain a potential cause of lumbosacral radiculopathy.