Acute Compartment Syndrome
Sheets of connective tissue called fascia are located under the skin of the arms and legs. These wrap around groups of muscles, nerves, and blood vessels to create a unit called a compartment. When pressure builds up in these enclosed spaces, it is redirected into the compartment. When pressure reaches a certain point, it disrupts blood flow. Blood vessels may fail and tissue dies. Acute compartment syndrome (ACS) can affect the arms, hands, legs, feet, and buttocks.
|Compartment Syndrome in Lower Leg|
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Factors that may increase your chance of ACS include:
Pre-existing condition that could lead to fatal bleeding in cases of trauma, such as:
- Taking anticoagulants
- Having a bleeding disorder such as hemophilia
- Participation in certain collision or contact sports such as football
- Bandages or casts that are worn too tightly or worn for too long
- Recent injury to the area
- Swelling of tissues under the skin
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your bodily fluids will be tested. This can be done with blood tests.
Imaging tests to evaluate bodily structures may include:
- MRI scan
- CT scan
The pressure inside your compartments will be measured. This can be done with:
- Slit catheter
- Near-infrared spectroscopy
ACS is a medical emergency. Call for emergency medical services right away. Damage can result in serious injury or even death.
Surgery to relieve pressure, called fasciotomy, must be done right away to prevent permanent damage. The doctor makes a long cut into the fascia to open the envelope of tissue and relieve pressure.
ACS is difficult to prevent because there are many causes. But there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk of injury, such as:
- Wearing proper equipment when playing sports
- Making sure that your medical records mention if you have used anticoagulants or if you have blood diseases
- Being aware of the risk of ACS when you are wearing a bandage or cast
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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a (ACS; Compartment Syndrome, Acute; Volkmann’s Ischemia)
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