I’m Ed Smith, a Personal injury lawyer in Sacramento. Compartment syndrome is a common complication from serious injuries and can have devastating consequences if diagnosis is delayed. Compartment syndrome is possible in most compartments of the body but most common in the extremities such as the arms, legs, forearms and hands. The forearms and hands have more compartments to be affected following trauma or injury such as bone fractures. If any acute swelling occurs in the area this is your first possible sign of having compartment syndrome.
What is Compartment Syndrome?
Compartment syndrome happens when excessive pressure begins to build up inside of an enclosed muscle space of the body. Compartment syndrome typically results from swelling or bleeding after a traumatic injury. The excessively high pressure in compartment syndrome then begins to impede the blood flow to and from the affected area and its tissues. This typically results in swelling of the area and is very painful.
Treatments and Healing
Pursue further testing if the injury shows increased swelling in the affected extremity. Operative treatment may by necessary but most important is a prompt and proper diagnosis of your injury. If compartment syndrome is not diagnosed in a timely manner irreversible ischemic necrosis and severe tissue damage may ensue. Early signs and symptoms include swelling and pain and later findings may present as much more severe. This includes the extremity being pale in color, lacking a pulse in the extremity, lack of feeling or paralysis in the extremity. This can lead to irreversible tissue damage. If this syndrome is suspected with a cast or splint already applied it should be split for proper healing. The compartment pressure may also be measured, even though controversy exists around the amount of pressure required for a fasciotomy procedure to take place.
A fasciotomy is where the surgeon makes an incision to the skin and fascia, or thin connective tissue, for the release of the pressure building underneath. Some suggest the pressure needs to measure between 10-30 mm Hg below the diastolic pressure where others suggest up to 50 mm Hg. But all agree that the earlier the release of pressure through fasciotomy the better for the best chance of healing. Within 4 hours of ischemia, muscle damage begins and is irreversible after 6 hours. Nerve damage will also be at risk and limit reconstructive options for treatment. Overall, in the case of a traumatic injury, such as a bone fracture, swelling may be a common symptom but be aware of the possible complication of compartment syndrome and have it diagnosed quickly if suspected. If overlooked for too long it can result in loosing an extremity or can even become life-threatening. Knowing about compartment syndrome can help you be more aware of this dangerous condition. Remember to seek immediate medical attention after suffering a personal injury in a car accident or slip and fall accident.
Additional Links by Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyer, Ed Smith:
- Fractures in Children
- Tibia and Fibula Shaft Fractures
- Open Fractures
- Sacramento Finger Surgery Lawyer
Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyer
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I encourage my visitors to view my past verdicts and settlements on this link.
Image Source: By Mattes via Wikimedia Commons
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