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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Compartment Syndrome

Compartment Syndrome

Alternate Names : Volkmann's Ischemic Contracture

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Compartment syndrome occurs when blood supply is dramatically reduced to muscles in a closed body space, known as a compartment. Compartments are found in the hand, forearm, upper arm, abdomen, buttock, and leg. The muscles most frequently involved are those on the front of the lower leg or the palm side of the forearm.

What is going on in the body?

A muscle group is surrounded by a tough, fibrous membrane called the fascia. Small blood vessels supply the muscle with oxygen and other essential nutrients. Insufficient blood supply to tissues and compartment syndrome can occur if:

  • the muscle compartment size is reduced, as when a cast is too tight
  • the muscle compartment contents are increased, such as by swelling or bleeding associated with injury
  • If the affected muscles are deprived of blood supply for more than 6 hours, nerve and muscle tissue can be permanently damaged or destroyed.

    What are the causes and risks of the condition?

    Some common causes of compartment syndrome include:

  • bleeding, from a bone fracture or other injuries
  • burns
  • casts applied to treat bone fractures or other abnormalities
  • a crush injury
  • intense exercise
  • leaking of intravenous fluid or injections into the compartment
  • repeated use of a muscle group
  • seizures that involve the muscles in the compartment
  • snakebite
  • swelling of the muscle itself


    Next section


    Compartment Syndrome: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: John A.K. Davies, MD
    Reviewer: Barbara Mallari, RN, BSN, PHN
    Date Reviewed: 07/03/01

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