What is compartment syndrome?

On Behalf of | Sep 2, 2020 | blog

In car accidents, blunt force trauma can lead to broken limbs. Broken limbs can then cause acute compartment syndrome. Often, this occurs due to broken arms or legs. It may develop because of the break to the bone or because of the pressure from any bleeding. 

In compartment syndrome, the fluid from the injury builds up in a compartment of the body. The pressure in the compartment rises and the blood cannot reach the tissues inside the limb. This leads to severe tissue damage. You can even lose the loss of function in the limb or worse.  WebMD describes the most prone areas of the body to develop this syndrome as the abdomen, legs and arms. 

How to identify compartment syndrome

After you suffer a serious injury to your limbs, you may develop symptoms of compartment syndrome within hours. WebMD describes compartment syndrome symptoms as numbness, electric pain in the limbs, a persistent ache in the limb and swelling or bruising. Often, the pain in the limbs will be worse than expected for the nature of your injuries. 

How to diagnose compartment syndrome

Symptoms and a physical exam can indicate compartment syndrome. For a physician to diagnose compartment syndrome, he or she needs to measure the pressures of the body’s compartment. The doctor inserts a needle and a pressure monitor records the pressure. With the use of a plastic catheter, the doctor can monitor the compartment pressure constantly. 

Imaging tests might also be able to aid in the diagnosis of compartment syndrome. While this can help, only the pressure measurement can say for sure if a person has compartment syndrome. 

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