Surgery is usually required. Long surgical cuts are made in the fascia to relieve the pressure. The wounds are generally left open (covered with a sterile dressing) and closed during a second surgery, usually 48 – 72 hours later. Skin grafts may be required to close the wound.
If a cast or bandage is causing the problem, the dressing should be loosened or cut down to relieve the pressure.
With prompt diagnosis and treatment, the outlook is excellent for recovery of the muscles and nerves inside the compartment. However, the overall prognosis will be determined by the injury leading to the syndrome.
Permanent nerve injury and loss of muscle function can result if the diagnosis is delayed. This is more common when the injured person is unconscious or heavily sedated and cannot complain of pain. Permanent nerve injury can occur after 12 – 24 hours of compression.
Complications include permanent injury to nerves and muscles that can dramatically impair function. (See: Volkmann’s ischemia)
In more severe cases, amputation may be required.
Calling Your Health Care Provider
Call your health care provider if you have had an injury and have severe swelling or pain that does not improve with pain medications.
Compartment syndrome : Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors
Compartment syndrome : Symptoms & Signs, Diagnosis & Tests
Compartment syndrome : Treatment
Review Date : 7/29/2008
Reviewed By : Thomas N. Joseph, MD, Private Practice specializing in Orthopaedics, subspecialty Foot and Ankle, Camden Bone & Joint, Camden, SC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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