Compartment Syndrome: Diagnosis, Management, and Unique Concerns in the Twenty-First Century

HSS Journal: Volume 10, Issue 2

Matthew R. Garner, MD

Hospital for Special Surgery

Samuel A. Taylor, MD

Hospital for Special Surgery

Elizabeth Gausden, MD

Hospital for Special Surgery


John P. Lyden, MD

Attending Orthopaedic Surgeon, Hospital for Special Surgery
Professor of Clinical Surgery, Weill Cornell Medical College
Associate Attending Orthopaedic Surgeon, New York Presbyterian Hospital
Assistant Attending Orthopaedic Surgeon, Memorial Hospital for Cancer and Allied Diseases, New York City

Abstract

Background
Compartment syndrome is an elevation of intracompartmental pressure to a level that impairs circulation. While the most common etiology is trauma, other less common etiologies such as burns, emboli, and iatrogenic injuries can be equally troublesome and challenging to diagnose. The sequelae of a delayed diagnosis of compartment syndrome may be devastating. All care providers must understand the etiologies, high-risk situation, and the urgency of intervention.

Questions/Purposes
This study was conducted to perform a comprehensive review of compartment syndrome discussing etiologies, risk stratification, clinical progression, noninvasive and invasive monitoring, documentation, medical-legal implication, and our step-by-step approach to compartment syndrome prevention, detection, and early intervention.

Methods
A literature search was performed using the PubMed Database and the following search terms: “Compartment syndrome AND Extremity,” “Compartment syndrome AND Gluteal,” and Compartment syndrome AND Paraspinal.” A total of 2,068 articles were identified. Filters allowed for the exclusion of studies not printed in English (359) and those focusing on exertional compartment syndrome (84), leaving a total of 1,625 articles available for review.

Results
The literature provides details regarding the etiologies, risk stratification, clinical progression, noninvasive and invasive monitoring, documentation, medical-legal implication, and our step-by-step approach to compartment syndrome prevention, detection, and early intervention. The development and progression of compartment syndrome is multifactorial, and as complexity of care increases, the opportunity for the syndrome to be missed is increased. Recent changes in the structure of in-hospital medical care including resident work hour restrictions and the incorporation of midlevel providers have increased the frequency of “signouts” or “patient handoffs” which present opportunities for the syndrome to be mismanaged.

Conclusion
The changing dynamics of the health care team have prompted the need for a more explicit algorithm for managing patients at risk for compartment syndrome to ensure appropriate conveyance of information among team members.

This article appears in HSS Journal: Volume 10, Issue 2
View the full HSS Journal Online First article at springerlink.com.

About the HSS Journal

HSS Journal, an academic peer-reviewed journal published three times a year, February, July and October. The Journal accepts and publishes peer reviewed articles from around the world that contribute to the advancement of the knowledge of musculoskeletal diseases and disorders.

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