The Risks of Compartment Syndrome

Posted By Power Rogers & Smith, P.C. || 26-Aug-2016

Compartment syndrome is a dangerous and incredibly painful condition that is caused when pressure builds up from swollen tissue or internal bleeding in your arms and / or legs. This pressure buildup can prevent oxygen and nourishment from reaching muscle and nerve cells through decreased blood flow. This condition can be either chronic or acute.

Acute Compartment Syndrome

Acute compartment syndrome most often develops following a traumatic injury like a broken bone or car crash, though there is still a risk of it developing after a lesser injury or after exertion. It is a medical emergency, and can lead to permanent muscle damage if not treated immediately. Some of the more common causes of acute compartment syndrome include:

  • Bone break or fracture
  • Severe contusion
  • Crush injury
  • Anabolic steroids
  • Overly constricting cast or bandages
  • Significant physical exertion
  • Sudden return of blood flow

This last point is especially dangerous; it can occur following a surgical procedure to repair a damaged blood vessel if the doctors and medical professionals aren’t careful in monitoring your condition after blood flow is reestablished to the area. The most common symptom of this condition is pain, especially when stretching the affected area. Other symptoms include:

  • The muscle can feel full or tight
  • Paresthesia, a burning or tingling sensation in the skin - late stage symptom that generally indicates permanent damage
  • Paralyses or numbness – late stage symptom that generally indicates permanent damage

Acute compartment syndrome is a medical emergency that can only be treated with a surgical procedure known as a fasciotomy, where the surgeon makes an incision to cut open your fascia and skin to relieve the pressures in the affected area.

Exertional Compartment Syndrome

Exertional compartment syndrome is caused by excessive exercise, and generally affects runners, bikers, and swimmers due to the repetitive motions involved in those activities. It most commonly affects the legs, and symptoms of the condition include:

  • Severe pain
  • Swelling
  • Numbness
  • Difficulty moving the affected hand or foot

Exertional compartment syndrome will cause cramping or pain while continuing the exercise, and can disappear when resting. Exertional compartment syndrome can become acute compartment syndrome, which would require prompt surgical intervention.

Compartment syndrome, while dangerous, is completely treatable unless your doctor fails to diagnose the condition, or makes a mistake during surgery. If this is the case, you may be able to pursue a medical malpractice claim in order to secure the compensation you need to pay for medical treatment and any other damages associated with the injury. Our medical malpractice attorneys at Power, Rogers & Smith, L.L.P. understand just how difficult these situations can be, and are committed to fighting for your rights in court and at the negotiation table. Fill out our online form for a free case evaluation, or call us at (312) 313-0202 for a free consultation.

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