C is for Compartment Syndrome

April 21, 2013

Compartment syndrome is a condition in which the fascia is around the muscle is tight and muscle activity produces pain.

Compartment syndrome in the leg occurs when there is increased pressure within the compartments (enclosed spaces) of the leg, leading to inadequate blood flow and oxygen supply to the muscles and tissues. The primary causes of compartment syndrome in the leg can be categorized as acute or chronic.

  1. Acute Compartment Syndrome:
    • Trauma: Acute compartment syndrome is commonly associated with traumatic injuries, such as fractures, crush injuries, or severe muscle contusions. The trauma can cause swelling and bleeding within the compartment, leading to increased pressure.
    • Fractures: Certain types of fractures, particularly long bone fractures, can result in compartment syndrome. The broken bones or bone fragments can compress the surrounding tissues and impede blood flow.
    • Surgical complications: In some cases, compartment syndrome can develop as a result of surgical procedures in the leg. This can occur due to excessive bleeding, excessive tissue swelling, or inadequate postoperative care.
  2. Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome:
    • Overuse or repetitive activities: Chronic exertional compartment syndrome is often associated with repetitive or prolonged activities that involve the affected muscles. Examples include running, cycling, or activities that require repetitive leg motions. The repetitive stress and increased muscle size during exercise can lead to elevated pressure within the compartments.
    • Muscle hypertrophy: Individuals with well-developed leg muscles, such as athletes or bodybuilders, may be more prone to chronic exertional compartment syndrome. The increased muscle mass can cause higher pressure within the compartments during physical activity.

It’s worth noting that certain factors can increase the risk of developing compartment syndrome, including tight bandaging, casts, or dressings that restrict normal swelling or blood flow, as well as conditions that affect blood clotting or tissue healing.

Symptoms of compartment syndrome may include severe pain, swelling, tightness, numbness, or tingling in the affected leg. It is a medical emergency that requires immediate evaluation and treatment, as delayed or inadequate treatment can result in tissue damage, nerve injury, or even limb loss. Treatment typically involves the release of pressure through a surgical procedure called a fasciotomy, which involves making incisions to relieve the pressure within the affected compartments.


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