Autopsy and Case Reports
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Article / Clinical Case Report

Cholesterol crystal embolism to the gastrointestinal tract: a catastrophic case

Miao Tian; Karen E Matsukuma

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Cholesterol crystal embolism is a rare and easily overlooked cause of colonic ischemia. The gastrointestinal tract is the third most common organ system affected by cholesterol emboli, second only to kidney and skin. Here we present a catastrophic case of gastrointestinal cholesterol crystal embolism leading to extensive post-operative bowel infarction and ultimately death. For a practicing pathologist, careful attention to the vessels of any ischemic bowel and recognition of the subtle but distinct angular imprint of cholesterol crystals facilitates prompt identification of the atheroemboli. In some cases, early identification may help mitigate further tissue damage. In more acute and severe cases, identification of the cholesterol crystal emboli may be important primarily for documentation of procedural complications.


Cholesterol, Embolism, Gastrointestinal Tract, Ischemia


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