Compartment syndrome may affect any compartment, including the hand, forearm, upper arm, abdomen, buttock, and entire lower extremity. Almost any injury can cause this syndrome, including injury resulting from vigorous exercise. Clinicians need to maintain a high level of suspicion when dealing with complaints of extremity pain.
Compartment Syndrome Definition:
- Compartment Syndrome is a serious condition that involves increased pressure in a muscle compartment. It can lead to muscle and nerve damage and problems with blood flow.
What Causes Compartment Syndrome?
Thick layers of tissue, called fascia, separate groups of muscles in the arms and legs from each other. Inside each layer of fascia is a confined space, called a compartment. The compartment includes the muscle tissue, nerves, and blood vessels. Fascia surrounds these structures, similar to the way in which insulation covers wires.
Fascia do not expand. Any swelling in a compartment will lead to increased pressure in that area, which will press on the muscles, blood vessels, and nerves. If this pressure is high enough, blood flow to the compartment will be blocked. This can lead to permanent injury to the muscle and nerves. If the pressure lasts long enough, the muscles may die and the arm or leg will not work any more. It may need to be amputated. Swelling that leads to compartment syndrome occurs from trauma such as a car accident or crush injury, or surgery. Swelling can also be caused by complex fractures or soft tissue injuries due to trauma.