Overview of Compartment Syndrome

Overview of Compartment Syndrome

Compartment syndrome is a medical condition that, in some situations, is a medical emergency requiring surgery.

It occurs when there is increased pressure in a certain “compartment” of the body, or area of muscles, usually in arms, hands, legs, abdomen and buttocks. The pressure is usually due to an inflammation but could also be the consequence of bleeding.

Symptoms include pain that appears disproportionate to the injury, a “pins and needles” feeling and tight shiny skin over the affected area. If there is an artery in the affected area, a without of pulse may also be a symptom. Paralysis of a limb is also a symptom but is typically a later stage symptom. If any of the other symptoms are present, the patient should seek immediate medical attention before paralysis sets in.

Acute compartment syndrome is a medical emergency and may require immediate surgery. For example, if someone experiences a “grind injury” when a scaffold breaks and crushes a worker’s arm, it may take only a matter of hours before the acute cs develops in the arm.

Irreversible tissue damage can occur within only six hours. If left untreated, cs can consequence in nerve damage or muscle death and in some situations rule to kidney failure and amputation.

If acute compartment syndrome is diagnosed, a fascitomy may be required. A fasciotomy is a procedure where the connective tissue is opened to relieve the pressure. It results in an open wound that must then be observed for infection and a skin graft may be needed.

Chronic compartment syndrome occurs where there is extensive muscle us. This occurs typically with athletes, often cyclists who may experience chronic cs in the legs.

For chronic cs, pressure is usually tested before and after exercise. Treatment includes a combination of rest, anti-inflammatories and elevation of the limb, among other things.

Legal issues –

In the example above where the worker experienced a grind injury at work, he may have a medical malpractice claim if he went to the ER and the compartment syndrome was not diagnosed at the time. He would also have a workers’ compensation claim because the injury that caused the compartment syndrome occurred at work. In addition, if the scaffold was being modificated by someone who was not an employee of the same company, then he could also have a possible personal injury claim.

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