Symptoms and Treatment for Compartment Syndrome

14/02/2011 16:02

You may be aware of the medical term compartment syndrome. In this article, you can read some general details about the condition. Please be aware, though, that the acute type of this condition is a medical emergency. What you read here is not meant to be used in place of attention or information from a professional medical worker. If you need such, then please talk with someone who is qualified to offer that kind of details or work.

Acute compartment syndrome involves a trauma to the muscle or bone within any of these compartments. The trauma then causes bleeding or swelling and increases the internal pressure. Since the fascia around the muscle cannot expand enough to accommodate the increase in size, the pressure will rise.

Compartment syndrome is a muscle condition that arises as a result of a traumatic injury or a repetitive motion. While the chronic, repetitive motion form of compartment syndrome can be treated with rest and avoidance of the motion, acute compartment syndrome can be disabling if left untreated. Therefore, it is important to recognize the symptoms of this condition as well as its treatment options.

Signs and symptoms may include deep, cramping pain (or tingling) in the shin area that is intensified with activity (i.e. running, walking, etc.) and subsides with rest. There can be a weakness upon attempting to pull the foot upwards against resistance and swelling and tenderness over the shin may be felt. Some may experience cold feet or toes, or "foot drop" in which it is very difficult or impossible to lift toes or flex the ankle upwards (this can make it difficult to walk up steps).

There are a number of different symptoms that can appear in a case of compartment syndrome. In particular, there are six which are known as the six Ps. Passive stretch pain can occur, meaning that passively stretching can lead to pain. In general, pain beyond what is expected, that is, seemingly out of proportion, may be felt. Numbness and tingling known as paresthesia might be sensed. Increased pressure with passive extension can happen. Rarely, there may be a pulseless sensation. Late in the condition, paralysis may occur.

The reason for compartment syndrome is the excessive build up of pressure in one of the tissue compartments of the limbs, stopping the arterial pressure from supplying the area and depriving the tissues of adequate blood supply. Death of the local tissues with significant pain can occur if treatment is not promptly administered.

The forearm and the lower leg are the most common sites for this to occur, in which areas the muscles are bounded by a semi-rigid compartment made up of firm connective tissue fascia and by bone. If the pressure builds up inside here its lack of extensibility can cause problems within the compartment.

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 lack 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.

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