Compartment syndrome is a serious medical condition that is linked to higher pressure in a patient’s muscle compartment. It can be caused by a crush injury and can lead to nerve and muscle damage and issues with blood flow. Thick layers of tissue also known as the fascia break up groups of muscles in the legs and arms. If your doctor diagnoses you with compartment syndrome, you may be looking at years of medical treatments.
A compartment is located within each layer of the fascia. This compartment includes nerves, blood vessels, and muscle tissue. Fascias cannot expand and any swelling in an individual compartment will lead to higher pressure which presses on the blood vessels, nerves, and muscles. If the pressure is very high, the flow of blood to the compartment is blocked entirely and the muscles may die if this pressure continues long enough.
Compartment syndrome is most often identified in the lower leg and the forearm, but it can also occur in the upper arm, the thigh, the hand or the foot. Some of the most common symptoms associated with compartment syndrome include:
- Paleness of skin
- Decreased sensation
- Severe pain that gets worse
A physical exam with a medical professional after a vehicle crash can identify shiny and swollen skin, pain when the compartment is squeezed and severe pain when you attempt to move the affected area. Swelling that leads to compartment syndrome is often caused by trauma such as a car accident, surgery or a crush injury. Talking to a doctor immediately after a car accident gives you the best possible opportunity to identify both the treatment plan and your next steps to protect yourself from compartment syndrome.