Compartment syndrome following total knee arthroplasty: a report of seven cases

J Bone Joint Surg Br. 2006 Mar;88(3):331-4. doi: 10.1302/0301-620X.88B3.16919.


Compartment syndrome is a rare complication of total knee arthroplasty that requires early recognition and prompt decompression in order to prevent long-term disability. We have found only one previous case report in the literature. We present a series of seven cases from four hospitals and five surgeons. Six of the cases resulted in the loss of at least one compartment, and one resulted in amputation. Four of the cases resulted in legal action. We suggest that important risk factors contributing to the development of this condition include complex surgery, soft-tissue compromise, previous surgery, and possibly vascular disease. Delay in the diagnosis and hence delay in decompression was common in our series, and in five cases appeared to be related to the use of a postoperative epidural infusion for pain relief. The presence of associated neurological compromise may have also been a significant factor in the delay to diagnosis in two cases.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analgesia / methods
  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Knee / adverse effects*
  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Knee / methods
  • Compartment Syndromes / diagnosis
  • Compartment Syndromes / etiology*
  • Compartment Syndromes / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Care / methods
  • Pressure
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome