Evidence for low muscle capillary supply as a pathogenic factor in chronic compartment syndrome

Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2010 Dec;20(6):805-13. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0838.2009.01013.x.


There is a paucity of data regarding the pathogenesis of chronic exertional compartment syndrome (CECS), its consequences for the muscles and the effects of treatment with fasciotomy. We analyzed biopsies from the tibialis anterior muscle, from nine patients, obtained during a decompressing fasciotomy and during follow-up 1 year later. Control biopsies were obtained from nine normal subjects. Muscle capillarity, fiber-type composition and fiber area were analyzed with enzyme- and immunohistochemistry and morphometry. At baseline, CECS patients had lower capillary density (273 vs 378 capillaries/mm(2) , P=0.008), lower number of capillaries around muscle fibers (4.5 vs 5.7, P=0.004) and lower number of capillaries in relation to the muscle fiber area (1.1 vs 1.5, P=0.01) compared with normal controls. The fiber-type composition and fiber area did not differ, but focal signs of neuromuscular damage were observed in the CECS samples. At 1-year follow-up after fasciotomy, the fiber area and the number of fibers containing developmental myosin heavy chains were increased, but no enhancement of the capillary network was detected. Thus, morphologically, patients with CECS seemed to have reduced microcirculation capacity. Fasciotomy appeared to trigger a regenerative response in the muscle, however, without any increase in the capillary bed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Capillaries*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chronic Disease
  • Compartment Syndromes / etiology
  • Compartment Syndromes / pathology*
  • Compartment Syndromes / surgery
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Microcirculation
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / blood supply*
  • Myosin Heavy Chains / analysis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Young Adult


  • Myosin Heavy Chains