Attorneys for Failure to Diagnose Compartment Syndrome
Chicago Compartment Syndrome Lawyer
Are you the victim of compartment syndrome that left you with injuries and damages? The Chicago, IL personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC have years of experience helping injured clients maximize their compensation through a medical malpractice case or legal liability lawsuit.
Discuss your failure to diagnose compartment syndrome case with a Chicago, IL attorney who will protect your rights and obtain the compensation you or your loved one deserves.
Contact our personal injury law firm today at (888) 424-5757 to schedule a free consultation.
Defining Compartment Syndrome
Compartment syndrome is a severe medical emergency that requires a prompt surgical response at a hospital to avoid muscle death (necrosis) or amputation.
The condition happens when bleeding or swelling in the area produces extensive pressure in a muscle "compartment."
Nearly any forceful physical impact could lead to acute compartment syndrome with compartmentalized swelling or bleeding of the body part that prevents blood circulation, requiring immediate surgical repair.
Almost half of acute compartment syndrome injuries involve tibia fractures in the lower legs due to a crushing accident or repeated intravenous use. Sometimes, an individual develops the condition following a surgical procedure.
Without an accurate compartment syndrome diagnosis and prompt treatment, severe injuries could follow. In catastrophic cases where there is extensive compartment pressure or muscle and nerve damage in a compartment, death may occur.
Acute Compartment Syndrome
Acute compartment syndrome is one of two categories of the condition. Compartment syndrome usually develops after a catastrophic forceful injury that may involve severe muscle and nerve damage, muscle tissue contusion, fracture (bone break), crush injuries, or surgical mistakes.
Unbearable pain out of proportion to the extent of the injury is among the first symptoms of compartment syndrome, usually because of the compartment pressures caused by restricted blood supply affecting muscle and nerve tissue.
Many individuals with an acute compartment syndrome are harmed while wearing a cast or bandage applied too tight, restricting circulation.
In addition, many injured victims wearing a cast or bandage experienced pins and needles (paresthesia) with extreme numbness or sensations in the injured extremity. This sensation is often the result of nerve damage or progressing compartment pressures.
The pressure within the enclosed space may also develop quickly through repeated IV (intravenous) usage, where fluid fills up within the compartment, causing injuries to nerves, arterial vessels, muscles, or organs.
Common contributing factors for acute compartment syndrome include:
- Blood clots in the legs and arms
- Crushing force injury
- Prolong compression on the leg or arm
- Improperly repaired broken bones (medical malpractice)
- Surgical mistakes during elbow and knee repairs (medical malpractice)
Chronic Compartment Syndrome
Statistically, compartment syndrome happens most often in the front (anterior) compartment of the calf (lower leg).
However, developing compartment syndrome can also occur in the buttocks, feet, hands, and arms, especially after a catastrophic injury, a broken bone (fracture), or a car accident from the pressure within a compartment.
Intense physical activity causing a repetitive impact on the lower leg, arm, or torso could result in chronic compartment syndrome. For example, many athletes who strenuously exercise or are involved in a high-impact sport may develop the syndrome.
Typically, the chronic condition occurs from overexertion on a body part where tissues might already be injured from strenuous exercise.
Both acute and chronic compartment syndrome can result from intense physical injury caused by trauma, blunt force, or overexertion.
The common risk factors associated with acute and chronic conditions include:
- Younger athletes, specifically under forty years of age
- Individuals that perform specific exercise routines, including swimming, tennis, and running
- Overexertion caused by over-training involving frequent workouts or intense exercise
Without immediate medical intervention to treat acute or chronic conditions, the condition could result in renal failure, limb amputation, or permanent nerve injury.
Compartment Syndrome Injuries
The body develops in compartments (areas) containing organs, nerves, arteries and veins, and muscles, where each region is separated by fascia, internal connective tissue segmented walls that create a compartment.
Any physical injury with forceful impact could allow blood and fluid to accumulate, triggering swelling inside the compartment.
The increased pressure against the fascia tissue stretches the tissue beyond its capacity. In addition, the swollen area restricts blood flow circulation to the organs and tissue inside the compartment.
The loss of oxygenated blood circulation can cause tissue and organ necrosis that start to decay. Without immediate attention, the victim could suffer the loss of a limb or organ affected by the excessive swelling pressure.
Typically, the legs, arms, and abdominal areas are highly vulnerable to blood-restricted damage.
Symptoms of Compartment Syndrome
Typically, pain is the first indicator of compartment syndrome following a blunt force injury or fluid accumulation in the area. The pain results from the restricted vein or artery circulation to tissue and muscle when the compartment is stretched or moved.
Common symptoms of compartment syndrome include:
- Intense pain at the affected site when muscle, tissue, or organs swell with accumulated blood or excessive swelling,
- A tingling or burning sensation at the skin's top layer and underlying tissue,
- A feeling of tightness or fullness at the injury or accumulating intravenous fluid site,
- A distended, tight abdomen
- Restricted urine output
- A loss of sensation or partial paralysis during the latter stages of a compartmental syndrome injury, likely leading to tissue or muscle necrosis, or irreversible harm
Treating Compartmental Syndrome
Doctors recognize a severe compartmental syndrome injury as an immediate health care emergency. Without prompt surgical intervention (fasciotomy), amputation may be the only option to avoid a loss of life.
A surgeon will make an incision through the skin, underlying tissue, and the compartment's fascia wall to relieve swelling, allowing the previously restricted circulation to return to the affected area.
The procedure ensures that the bleeding stops and the swelling reduces before suturing the incision.
Untreated Compartment Syndrome
Any compartment syndrome left untreated could lead to severe or permanent injury. In extreme cases, the condition can cause complete tissue and muscle necrosis at the affected site requiring amputation to avoid the patient's death.
Comment outcomes of the condition that is left untreated could involve:
- Rhabdomyolysis, a severe direct or indirect muscle injury where muscle fibers die, releasing their contents into the blood, leading to severe complications including kidney (renal) failure;
- Sepsis/septic shock, a deadly circulatory infection that produces an elevated heart rate, weakness, and chills;
- Permanent kidney failure
- Extensive kidney necrosis
- Chronic pain at the affected site
- Foot drop, a common occurrence where the patient loses their ability to lift the front of the foot or toes easily
- Loss of sensation of the affected site
Medical Malpractice and Compartment Syndrome
Nearly every compartment syndrome case is a hospital emergency requiring immediate orthopedic surgical intervention.
The outcome from the condition could be catastrophic without an accurate evaluation and immediate orthopedic surgical intervention.
Failure to diagnose the condition could result in losing a limb, sepsis (circulatory infection), kidney failure, or necrosis.
Statistically, more medical malpractice cases involve orthopedic surgery mistakes compared to all other surgical errors. Most malpractice cases are built on hospital negligence involving orthopedic doctors who failed to diagnose, treat, or correctly repair an affected area.
Medical Negligence in a Failure to Diagnose Compartment Syndrome
Additionally, many medical negligence cases involve patients in extreme pain after their surgical procedure or those taking prescription medications that masked the condition's symptoms.
Some hospital negligence lawsuits are filed by patients who waited hours to see an orthopedic doctor during an emergency room visit. In many cases, the doctors and nursing staff failed to diagnose a developing acute compartment syndrome.
The patient will also leave the hospital wearing a cast to repair a broken bone with prescribed medications to treat the swelling and fracture-related pain.
Yet, within hours, the restricted circulation could kill muscle, tissue, nerves, arteries, and veins, leading to amputation that could have been prevented had the staff not been negligent in providing care.
Many of these cases involving a failure to diagnose compartment syndrome are based on hospital negligence where the staff made mistakes or prematurely discharged the patient from their care.
Sadly, many of these horrific outcomes could have been prevented had the doctor performed a fasciotomy procedure to alleviate the pressure and restore restricted blood flow at the damaged site.
Compartment Syndrome FAQs
Our personal injury attorneys understand that many families have unanswered questions on the doctor's failure to diagnose compartment syndrome. Our legal team has answered some of those questions below.
Call our law office today at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) for additional information on the signs and symptoms of exertional compartment syndrome.
How Long Does It Take to Recover From Compartment Syndrome?
The condition can clear up or be resolved within three to four months if the patient receives immediate attention. First, however, the patient must refrain from muscle overexertion by minimizing movement and exercise or stop intravenous injections at the site until the inflammation and damaged area have been restored.
At some point, the treating doctor will encourage adding weight-bearing exercises and other routines to increase the range of motion and strengthen muscles. However, if possible, full recovery may take a year or longer if the patient undergoes physical and occupational therapies while modifying their activities.
When Should I Be Concerned About Compartment Syndrome?
Acute compartment syndrome is a health emergency that requires immediate medical attention. Excessive pressure inside the compartment is alleviated before it causes permanent nerve and muscle damage.
A tingling sensation, overall weakness, numbness, or excessive pain within the compartment may indicate damage to the affected area.
Is Compartment Syndrome an Emergency?
Acute forms of compartment syndrome are emergencies requiring immediate medical attention. If untreated, compartment syndrome may lead to permanent muscle damage, amputation, sepsis (circulatory infection), and possible death.
What Do You Do If You Suspect Compartment Syndrome?
Any suspected compartment syndrome condition requires immediate urgent attention at the emergency room or urgent care center. Upon medical advice, the patient might undergo a surgical procedure to alleviate the restrictive circulation to the damaged area to avoid tissue necrosis and nerve damage.
The surgeon will likely perform a fasciotomy where the skin and fascia are cut open to alleviate built-up pressure. The syndrome compartment surgery allows restricted circulation to restore to the area.
How Do Doctors Treat Compartment Syndrome?
Physicians will use various treatments to alleviate blood supply pressure buildup, causing compartment syndrome in the lower leg or other extremities. Additionally, the doctor might remove a splint, cast, or dressing that constricts the damaged area or make a long incision through the fascia and skin layers, releasing the pressure.
Support treatments may involve pain medications, intravenous fluids, oxygen through the mouth or nose, and improving blood flow by ensuring that the affected body part remains below the heart muscle.
How Is Compartment Syndrome Diagnosed?
Any physician suspecting blood flow restriction to any area of the body will perform a comprehensive physical examination and take a patient history to identify any symptoms of compartment syndrome.
Typically, the physician will use a pressure monitor attached when inserted with a needle to diagnose compartment syndrome by identifying accumulating blood or swelling against fascia tissue. In addition, the doctor may diagnose abdominal compartment syndrome using a urinary catheter inserted into the bladder or order imaging and laboratory tests.
Any failure to diagnose the signs and symptoms of the condition and provide extensive treatment could cause the complete loss of function in the affected extremity.
Treating compartment syndrome may include removing a tight cast or performing a surgical procedure (fasciotomy) where the compartment is surgically opened, reducing pressure within the compartment.
Hiring a Medical Malpractice Attorney to Resolve Your Compartment Syndrome Case
Have you suffered harm, or was a loved one killed from exertional compartment syndrome damage? Contact us at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone call) or use the contact form to schedule a free consultation to discuss your legal rights.
Our Chicago, IL personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC will advise you on your best financial options and whether you could be entitled to damages by pursuing a case based on Illinois civil tort law.
Our medical malpractice attorney accepts exertional compartment syndrome cases through contingency fee arrangements. This agreement ensures you only pay for our services after we have resolved your compensation case.
Any family member who lost a loved one through a wrongful death can file a lawsuit for all damages, including medical bills, lost earnings, loss of consortium, funeral and burial expenses, pain, and suffering.
All information you, a family member, or your loved one share with our malpractice attorneys remains private and confidential through an attorney-client relationship.
Our medical malpractice lawyer currently follows CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines on Covid-19 social distancing to ensure everyone's health.
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC has years of experience winning multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements for our clients. Our Illinois firms' awards and recognitions include the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, Super Lawyers, Lawyers Legion, and Lawyers of Distinction.