Acute compartment syndromes

Br J Surg. 2002 Apr;89(4):397-412. doi: 10.1046/j.0007-1323.2002.02063.x.


Background: Acute compartment syndrome is both a limb- and life-threatening emergency that requires prompt treatment. To avoid a delay in diagnosis requires vigilance and, if necessary, intracompartmental pressure measurement. This review encompasses both limb and abdominal compartment syndrome, including aetiology, diagnosis, treatment and outcome.

Methods: A Pubmed and Cochrane database search was performed. Other articles were cross-referenced.

Results and conclusion: Diagnosis of limb compartment syndrome is based on clinical vigilance and repeated examination. Many techniques exist for tissue pressure measurement but they are indicated only in doubtful cases, the unconscious or obtunded patient, and children. However, monitoring of pressure has no harmful effect and may allow early fasciotomy, although the intracompartmental pressure threshold for such an undertaking is still unclear. Abdominal compartment syndrome requires measurement of intra-abdominal pressure because clinical diagnosis is difficult. Treatment is by abdominal decompression and secondary closure. Both types of compartment syndrome require prompt treatment to avoid significant sequelae.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen
  • Acute Disease
  • Compartment Syndromes* / diagnosis
  • Compartment Syndromes* / etiology
  • Compartment Syndromes* / therapy
  • Decompression, Surgical / methods
  • Humans
  • Manometry / methods
  • Pressure
  • Prognosis