What is Compartment Syndrome?

Compartment syndrome happens when excessive pressure builds up inside the body's enclosed muscle space. Compartment syndrome is usually the result of bleeding or swelling following an injury.

What is Compartment Syndrome?

What is Compartment Syndrome?

The hazardously high compartment syndrome pressure impedes blood flow to and from the tissues affected. It can be an emergency that requires surgery to avoid permanent injury.

Behind the Muscle in Compartment Syndrome?

Organ or muscle groups are organized into areas which are called compartments. The walls of these compartments are formed by strong connective tissue webs, called fascia. Blood or edema (fluid resulting from inflammation or injury) may build up in the compartment following an injury. 

Fascia's tough walls can't easily expand, and compartment pressure increases, preventing adequate blood flow to tissue inside the compartment. Severe damage to tissue may result, with loss of body function or even death. The legs, arms, and abdomen are more likely to develop syndrome with the compartment.

Causes of Compartmental Syndrome

The most common type of syndrome in the compartment is acute compartment syndrome. Acute compartment syndrome is caused around three-quarters of the time by a broken leg or arm. In the course of hours or days, acute compartment syndrome develops fast.

Compartment syndrome, due to pressure from bleeding and edema, can develop from the fracture itself. Or compartment syndrome can occur later, due to fracture treatment (such as surgery or casting).

After injuries without bone fractures, acute compartment syndrome can also occur including:

  • Injuries from crush
  • Burning
  • Too tight bandaging
  • Prolonged compression of a limb during an unconscious period
  • Operation in the blood vessels of an arm or leg
  • A blood clot in one arm or leg of a blood vessel
  • Extremely vigorous exercise (extension under pressure), especially eccentric movements
another form of compartment syndrome, called chronic compartment syndrome, Also called syndrome of the exertional compartment, can be due to regular, vigorous exercise. Usually involves lower leg, buttock, or thigh. Abdominal compartment syndrome develops almost always after a severe injury, surgery, or critical illness. Some abdominal-compartment syndrome-related conditions include:
  1. Trauma, especially when the shock comes
  2. Abdominal surgery, and especially liver transplantation
  3. Burn
  4. Sepsis (infection throughout the body which causes inflammation)
  5. Severe abdominal ascites or bleeding
  6. Fracture in the pelvic area
  7. Vigorous excentric abdominal exercises (i.e. situps in weight rooms on a rear extension machine)

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