Compartment Syndrome

Get the details on compartment syndrome.

Compartment Syndrome

Compartment syndrome is an acute medical condition taking place after surgery, injury or extensive and repetitive muscle use. The problem causes increased pressure, typically by inflammation, within a confined area, impairing the body's blood supply. Untreated, compartment syndrome may lead to irreversible nerve damage or even muscle death.

The common mean pressure in interstitial tissue is near zero mmHg in muscles, when not contracting. Should the pressure be elevated to or above 30 mmHg, small vessels in the tissue may be compressed, leading to ischemia (restriction of blood flow) and pain. Compartment syndrome is seen most often in either the anterior compartment or posterior compartment of the leg.

Note the difference between diastolic blood pressure and compartment pressure. If the diastolic blood pressure does not exceed the compartment pressure by at least 30 mmHG, then it is considered a medical emergency.

Edema, the increase of interstitial fluid, within a compartment's soft tissue may raise the pressure in the compartment to greater levels. Conditions of compartment syndrome may be further exacerbated if pressure continues to increase in a vicious cycle. This may lead to worsened tissue ischemia. You can also read about some potential complications that may be faced, particularly if the condition is not treated properly.