Cholesterol embolization syndrome

M Saric
I Kronzon, Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell


Purpose of review: To describe cholesterol embolization syndrome (CES) and its risk factors, pathophysiology, clinical presentation, diagnosis and treatment. Recent findings: To date, no specific diagnostic test (other than biopsy) for CES has been developed. Effective treatments for CES are yet to be developed. Summary: CES (also referred to as cholesterol crystal embolization, atheromatous embolization or atheroembolism) occurs when cholesterol crystals and other contents of an atherosclerotic plaque embolize from a large proximal artery to smaller distal arteries, causing ischemic end-organ damage. Clinical manifestations of CES include constitutional symptoms (fever, anorexia, weight loss, fatigue and myalgias), signs of systemic inflammation (anemia, thrombocytopenia leukocytosis, high erythrocyte sedimentation rate, elevated levels of C-reactive protein, hypocomplementemia), hypereosinophilia, eosinophiluria, acute onset of diffuse neurologic deficit, amaurosis fugax, acute renal failure, gut ischemia, livedo reticularis and blue-toe syndrome. CES may occur spontaneously or after an arterial procedure. There is no specific laboratory test for CES. Retinal exam demonstrating Hollenhorst plaques supports the diagnosis of CES. Biopsy of target organs (usually skin, skeletal muscles or kidneys) is the only means of confirming the diagnosis of CES. Treatment consists of supportive care and general management of atherosclerosis and arterial ischemia. © 2011 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.