The natural course of chronic exertional compartment syndrome of the lower leg

Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. 2015 Jul;23(7):2136-41. doi: 10.1007/s00167-014-2847-2. Epub 2014 Jan 29.


Purpose: The aim of this study was to investigate the natural course of chronic exertional compartment syndrome (CECS) in the lower leg.

Methods: Twelve military men [mean age 30 (SD 4)] diagnosed with CECS after intracompartmental pressure (ICP) measurements immediately post-exercise in 21 legs, who did not undergo a fasciotomy, were reviewed and participated in a repeat pressure measurement after a mean time of 50 months (SD 15).

Results: Sixteen of 21 legs still showed an ICP of 35 mm Hg or more (the cut-off point) at the second visit. All twelve patients still had typical complaints. Mean ICP at index measurement was 58 (SD 15) mm Hg. At the second visit, it was 51 (SD 15) mm Hg. Six patients chose to undergo a subcutaneous fasciotomy, and these six patients all benefited in the short term.

Conclusion: The natural course of CECS seems to be persistent symptoms over time.

Level of evidence: Case series with no comparative group, Level IV.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Compartment Syndromes / physiopathology*
  • Compartment Syndromes / surgery
  • Fasciotomy
  • Humans
  • Leg Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Leg Injuries / surgery
  • Male
  • Military Personnel
  • Treatment Outcome