Diagnosis and management of chronic exertional compartment syndrome (CECS) in the United Kingdom

Clin J Sport Med. 2006 May;16(3):209-13. doi: 10.1097/00042752-200605000-00004.


Objective: To investigate current practice in the diagnosis and management of chronic exertional compartment syndrome (CECS) of the lower leg among orthopedic surgeons in the United Kingdom.

Design: Questionnaire survey.

Setting: Secondary care (NHS and private).

Participants: Two hundred six orthopedic surgeons affiliated with one of the following specialist associations: British Association of Sports and Exercise Medicine (BASEM), United Kingdom Association of Doctors in Sport (UKADIS), British Orthopedic Sports and Trauma Association (BOSTA) and British Orthopedic Foot Surgery Society (BOFSS).

Interventions: Self-administered questionnaire.

Main outcome measures: Current practice in diagnosis and treatment of CECS.

Results: Sixty percent (124/206) of the surveyed population replied and 53% (66/124) see patients with CECS. To confirm the diagnosis, 83% (55/66) use intra-compartmental pressure measurements (ICPs). Of these, 42% use maximal ICP during exercise greater than 35 mmHg as a criterion for anterior CECS diagnosis and 35% use Pedowitz's modified criteria. Of all the respondents, 88% would be willing to adopt a National Framework document for diagnosis, 30% (20/66) always try conservative treatment following diagnosis, 93% (57/60) perform superficial fasciotomy as the first line surgical procedure, 55% (33/60) use a one incision technique for anterior fasciotomy and 60% (36/60) undertake a repeat fasciotomy following failed decompression.

Conclusions: There is agreement among orthopedic surgeons on the role of ICPs for diagnosis and the choice of fasciotomy as a first-line surgical procedure. In contrast, there is a divergence of opinions regarding the ICP diagnostic thresholds, the role of conservative management and the surgical techniques for fasciotomy and failure of decompression.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Injuries / diagnosis
  • Athletic Injuries / therapy
  • Chronic Disease
  • Compartment Syndromes / diagnosis*
  • Compartment Syndromes / therapy*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Orthopedic Procedures
  • Physical Examination
  • Physical Exertion / physiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United Kingdom