The lungs of 482 liveborn infants were examined at necropsy for the presence of intravascular lipid. Forty one patients had received parenteral feeding (including lipid emulsion in 30), and 441 had died before starting feeds or had received enteral feeds alone. Tissue was processed into wax and then stained with Sudan black; intravascular lipid was found in 15 of 30 infants who had received intravenous fat (Intralipid), but in no others. Those patients with positive lipid staining had received significantly more fat during parenteral nutrition than those in whom intravascular lipid was not found but the two groups were otherwise clinically indistinguishable. Using this staining technique intravascular lipid can be shown relatively often, although only in patients who have received intravenous lipid emulsion. The location of fat, predominantly in small pulmonary capillaries, and the absence of lipid emboli in other organs, suggests that lipid coalescence takes place before death and is not a postmortem artefact. The clinical relevance remains uncertain.
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