Limb Trauma part 3

Compartment syndrome:

Each group of muscles in the arms and legs, together with nearby blood vessels and nerves, is contained in a space surrounded by tissue called fascia. The fascia is an inelastic membrane. Compartment syndrome occurs when the pressure within the fascia increases, restricting the blood flow to the area and potentially damaging the muscles and nearby nerves.

There are 2 kinds of compartment syndrome, acute and chronic. Acute is usually due to trauma following a significant injury or fracture, e.g., where there is bleeding into the compartment. Chronic can be the result of exercise over time, and usually passes within minutes of stopping the activity.

Signs and symptoms of acute compartment syndrome:

  • intense pain, especially when the muscle is stretched, which seems much worse than would normally be expected for the injury
  • tenderness in the affected area
  • tightness in the muscle
  • a tingling or burning sensation
  • in severe cases, numbness or weakness (these are signs of permanent damage)

Signs and symptoms of chronic compartment syndrome:

  • cramping pain during exercise, most often in the legs
  • swelling or a visibly bulging muscle
  • a tingling sensation
  • the affected area turning pale and cold
  • in severe cases, difficulty moving the affected body part

Acute compartment syndrome is a medical emergency requiring early intervention and surgery within the hospital setting. Consider early extrication to hospital, elevation of the effected limb, and analgesia for the patient.