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Compartment Syndrome

Brief Overview

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Updated August 29, 2009


Compartment syndrome is a condition that occurs when pressure builds up within one of the various fascial compartments within the body. Muscle groups of the arms and legs are surrounded by a thick tissue called fascia. This tissue arises from one side of the bone, encircles a muscle group, and inserts on the opposite side of the bone creating an individual compartment for that group of muscle. Blood vessels, nerves, and the encased muscles are present within each of these facial compartments. When swelling occurs, compartmental pressure can rapidly build up as fascia is not readily expandable.

When pressure reaches a certain point within a compartmental plane, it compresses the arteries that supply oxygen and important nutrient to the muscles and nerves. When this occurs, permanent damage to the enclosed muscles and nerves can result. If treatment is not sought paresis, limb loss, or death can occur.

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