Compartment syndrome is a condition where pressure increases in a muscle compartment, which can cause serious nerve and muscle damage. When the pressure within a muscle compartment is high enough, blood flow will actually be blocked. If not treated quickly enough, the muscle may die, which could require amputation of the limb if the injury is severe enough. The lower leg and forearm are most often affected, but the hand, foot, thigh, and upper arm can also be affected.
Causes of Compartment Syndrome
Acute compartment syndrome is usually caused by severe injury or trauma involving fracture, bruised muscle, blocked circulation, crush injuries, anabolic steroid use, or constricting bandages. Symptoms of compartment syndrome are severe and lasting pain, and a feeling of tightness and swelling. If severe, it can cause pale skin, weakness, decreased sensation, pulselessness, and worsening pain.
A doctor can perform a physical exam, which can be confirmed with pressure measurements. The doctor should ask the patient to outline the borders of the area where they are experiencing pain, which may indicate a specific muscle compartment. A handheld device, such as a Stryker pressure tonometer, is widely used to perform a pressure measurement, which serves as the diagnostic criterion standard.
Treatment for Compartment Syndrome
Treatment includes long surgical cuts (fasciotomy) made into the muscle compartment to relieve pressure. After surgery, the limb is elevated to prevent edema. The wounds are covered with sterile dressing and left open until they can be closed 48-72 hours later. Physical therapy is recommended to help a patient regain function after fasciotomy.
Medical Malpractice Implications For Diagnosing Compartment Syndrome Cases
Prognosis depends on the diagnosis and the time it takes to perform surgical intervention. One study indicated that if surgical treatment is provided within six hours of the cutoff of blood flow, complete recovery is achieved. In cases where surgical treatment is performed within 12 hours after onset of compartment syndrome, 68% of patients regain normal limb function. However, if treatment is delayed longer than 12 hours, only 8% of patients had normal limb function.
These numbers emphasize the importance of early diagnosis so early treatment can be provided. Therefore, it is important that doctors and health care providers are trained to recognize symptoms of acute compartment syndrome. High-risk patients such as those who suffered severe trauma (acute extremity trauma), should be closely monitored for compartment syndrome. In addition, it is important that patients are closely monitored even after treatment to prevent dangerous infection.
Health care providers should take a patient’s pain level seriously because one of the most common symptoms is pain severity that is disproportionate to the injury. If you feel that your doctor is minimizing your complaints, it is important that you and your family remain assertive, so you receive the treatment and compassion you deserve.
Lawyers for Compartment Syndrome Cases
Compartment syndrome is truly a serious condition. You deserve to have experienced lawyers representing you. Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC will do what it takes to help you get the compensation that you truly deserve. We will get you the compensation that you are entitled to under the law. (888) 424-5757