Compartment syndrome occurs in the extremities. Here, damage to the tissue leads to swelling. Due to portions of the limbs beings compartmentalized by the thick layers of fascia, this swelling may rapidly lead to increased pressure in these areas. The pressure may reach levels high enough to damage or destroy the muscle and nerves. This disorder occurs anywhere in the body that there are compartments. This include the hand, forearm, upper arm, abdomen and lower extremity. Left untreated, the breakdown of the tissues, particularly the muscles, can lead to acute renal failure and death.
Causes of Compartment Syndrome
The cause of compartment syndrome is essentially that of an ischemic injury. The tissue in the damaged compartment is subjected to high pressures. This eventually diminishes perfusion of the tissue with blood until the point that no oxygen is available. Tissue death or necrosis then occurs.
Signs and Symptoms of Compartment Syndrome
There is swelling and increased pressure in the involved area. The tissue feels tense, and there may be pallor, caused by impaired blood flow. Often there is trauma, such as a crush injury or fracture. Permanent injury may occur with contractures of the tissue, deformity of the limbs and muscle weakness and numbness.
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Medical Content Last Updated on 07/12/2008
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