CASE REPORT Acute Compartment Syndrome of the Forearm Following Blood Gas Analysis Postthrombolysis for Pulmonary Embolism

Eplasty. 2013:13:e15. Epub 2013 Mar 7.


Objectives: Acute compartment syndrome is an important condition with potentially serious consequences if not diagnosed and treated promptly. This report highlights a case of acute compartment syndrome of the forearm after radial artery blood gas analysis in a patient who had been thrombolyzed for a pulmonary embolus. Methods/Case Report: We present a case of a 54-year-old lady, admitted and treated for a pulmonary embolism with tenecteplase for thrombolysis. As per routine management, she had taken an arterial blood gas sample, which caused hematoma in the wrist and a few hours later developed pain and a tense right forearm being diagnosed with compartment syndrome.

Results: She underwent fasciotomies and subsequent split skin grafting. We discuss the different etiologies of compartment syndrome, clinical signs, and available investigations as well as immediate and definitive management options including fasciotomy techniques. We present the latest literature on the subject and extract valuable learning points from this case.

Conclusions: With the common use of thrombolysis for the management of a myocardial infarction or pulmonary embolus, compartment syndrome is an uncommon but potentially associated problem. Furthermore, with blood gas sampling being part of daily clinical practice and a potential cause of this condition, the compartment syndrome becomes iatrogenic and potentiates serious litigation. As many junior doctors are performing blood gas analysis postthrombolysis, they need to assess patients adequately and realize the risk of possible sequelae such as compartment syndrome in this group and inform patients of such complications.