Many accident victims suffer from “acute compartment syndrome,” a very painful complication that can occur after a serious injury. It involves the fascia, the tough muscles that surround the muscles, blood vessels and nerves of your arms and legs. The fascia cannot expand or stretch to accommodate the swelling of an injury so pressure builds up in the compartment of muscles where the injury occurred.
The victim experiences severe pain as the blood flow to the area becomes compromised, and where it can suffer oxygen and nourishment deprivation. It is considered a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment to prevent tissue death and permanent muscle damage (numbness or paralysis). This type of injury more often occurs in the front compartment of the lower leg, but can also occur in other parts of the leg, arms, hands, feet and buttocks.
Acute compartment syndrome is different than chronic (exertional) compartment syndrome. The latter is rarely dangerous or permanent. It can occur to people who engage in activities with repetitive motions, like running, swimming or biking. Relief usually comes after the person discontinues the activity.
Potential causes of acute compartment syndrome
The following are some of the possible causes of acute compartment syndrome.
- A broken bone
- A badly bruised muscle
- A crush injury
- Steroid use
- Constricting bandages
- Blood flow reestablishment after circulation has been blocked
Symptoms of acute compartment syndrome
The following are some of the symptoms associated with acute compartment syndrome.
- Burning or tingling of the skin
- A feeling of fullness or tightness in the muscle
- Experiencing worse pain than felt from the initial injury
- Increased pain when stretching the injured muscle.
Treatment for acute compartment syndrome
A diagnosis will be made after the doctor measures the compartment pressure. Unfortunately, the only treatment for acute compartment syndrome is emergency surgery, and it still is not a guarantee of a full recovery.
A surgeon performs a fasciotomy where he makes an incision and cuts open the skin and fascia that covers the affected compartment, thereby relieving the pressure. If the swelling is very severe, the surgeon may not close the incision right away, but will wait for the swelling to subside. Skin grafts are sometimes required.
As personal injury attorneys, you want to be aware of the potential of this type of injury when doing your initial intake. If your client complains of any of the above symptoms, you may want to recommend that he immediately goes to an emergency room. If any of your clients have been diagnosed with acute compartment syndrome, he will face a long and painful recovery time.
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Group Matrix Blog – July 23, 2018 – by Sharon Bowles