Compartment Syndrome


Definition: the development of muscle swelling within a fixed volume fascial compartment, resulting in increased intracompartmental pressure and tissue hypoperfusion

If it persists, the tissue within the compartment can become ischaemic, dysfunctional and then necrotic



It can be caused by:

  • Fractures
  • Blunt contusion
  • Haemorrhage
  • Extravasation
  • Reperfusion injury
    • Crush syndrome – muscle damage resulting in renal injury


Characteristic features of compartment syndrome are:

  • Pain out of proportion to the injury sustained
  • Pain on passive stretching in the affected compartment
  • Reduced power of the muscles in the affected compartment
  • Paraethesia and decreased sensation in the distribution of the nerves travelling through the affected compartment
  • A feeling of tightness and tension in the muscles in the compartment


Any constricting dressings sat around the limb should be split down to the skin along the entire length of the dressing

  • Limb should be elevated to the level of the heart (but not above)
  • Surgery = fasciotomy and fixation of any fractures
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