Compartment syndrome, severe swelling extremities

Arms | Orthopaedics | Compartment syndrome, severe swelling extremities (Disease)


Compartment syndrome is a condition that occurs when an injury causes generalized painful swelling and increased pressure within a compartment to the point that blood cannot supply the muscles and nerves with oxygen and nutrients.

Fascia is a very strong layer of tissue that surrounds a group of muscles. The fascia forms an enclosure around the muscles, called a compartment. A person that suffers from compartment syndrome has increased pressure inside a muscle compartment. This results in very low blood flow to the muscles and nerves in the compartment, which can destroy the muscle and nerve tissue. If this condition is left untreated, muscles and nerves fail and may eventually die. As the compartment syndrome progresses, the structures controlled by the muscles and nerves inside the compartment may stop functioning.

Compartment syndrome most commonly occurs in the arm or leg, in association with an injury. Compartment syndrome usually occurs as a result of a crush injury or a trauma (such as a car accident or if your arm or leg is run over by a car). Other causes of compartment syndrome may be surgery, overuse of a muscle group in extreme endurance athletics, a severe bone fracture, or by a venomous snake or insect bite.

Causes and Risk factors

The most common causes of compartment syndrome include tibial or forearm fractures, ischemic reperfusion following injury, hemorrhage, vascular puncture, intravenous drug injection, casts, prolonged limb compression, crush injuries and burns. Another possible cause can be the use of creatine monohydrate; a history of creatine use has been linked to this condition.

Increased pressure within the muscle compartment causes loss of blood supply and nerve inflammation. This may cause significant pain and numbness or paresthesia.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The treatment for acute compartment syndrome is surgery (fasciotomy). A second operation may be required later to close the skin after the swelling has resolved. For acute compartment syndrome there is no non-surgical possibility. Hyperbaric oxygen may be considered as an adjunct treatment after surgery to promote healing. ...

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