Chronic compartment syndrome also affects nonathletic subjects: a prospective study of 63 cases with exercise-induced lower leg pain

Acta Orthop. 2007 Feb;78(1):136-42. doi: 10.1080/17453670610013547.


Background: Chronic exertional compartment syndrome is most often reported in young and physically active people.

Patients and methods: We studied 73 consecutive patients (mean age 39 (16-77) years, 45 women) with a history of exercise-induced pain and suspicion of chronic exertional compartment syndrome (CECS) of the lower leg--clinically, radiographically and with intramuscular pressure measurements.

Results: Intramuscular pressure increased with reproduction of symptoms and fulfilled the criteria for diagnosis of CECS in 36 patients (mean age 36 (16-65) years, 22 women), with engagement of 66 anterior, 2 lateral and 7 posterior muscle compartments in 72 legs. The patients with CECS of the lower leg were divided into 4 etiological groups: 18 with overuse, 10 with earlier trauma, 4 insulin-treated diabetics, and 4 others. Two-thirds of the patients had pain during walking. The outcome after fasciotomy was excellent or good in 41/57 of the legs.

Interpretation: CECS of the lower leg probably has a multifactorial etiology and is more common in sedentary individuals than has been recognized previously. Fasciotomy appears to be beneficial in these cases also.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anterior Compartment Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Anterior Compartment Syndrome / etiology*
  • Anterior Compartment Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Anterior Compartment Syndrome / surgery
  • Athletic Injuries / diagnosis
  • Athletic Injuries / etiology*
  • Athletic Injuries / physiopathology
  • Athletic Injuries / surgery
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology
  • Pain / diagnosis
  • Pain / etiology*
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Pain / surgery
  • Pressure
  • Prospective Studies