Limb threatening thigh hematoma diagnosis accelerated by emergency physician bedside ultrasound

SAGE Open Med Case Rep. 2019 May 6;7:2050313X19848589. doi: 10.1177/2050313X19848589. eCollection 2019.


Introduction: Compartment syndrome is a serious condition that requires prompt diagnosis, specialty consultation, and definitive management to prevent significant morbidity. Traditionally, compartment syndrome is identified by physical exam findings including the presence of pain, pallor, paresthesia, pulselessness, and paralysis involving the affected limb. Identifying the presence of compartment syndrome prior to the onset of signs that portend a poor outcome (i.e. pallor, pulselessness, and paralysis) can be challenging since many other less serious traumatic conditions can lead to paresthesia and pain in a limb. Bedside ultrasound is increasingly being utilized by emergency providers to expedite identification of various emergent diagnoses and guide care for patients who present to emergency departments. Bedside ultrasound allows emergency providers to visualize pathologic processes occurring that may be difficult to identify through traditional physical exam findings. This case report highlights the use of bedside ultrasound to promptly identify the presence of a traumatic thigh hematoma, which led to expedited advanced imaging and specialty consultation for compartment syndrome prior to the onset of physical exam findings consistent with compartment syndrome.

Conclusion: The identification of compartment syndrome in the early stages is challenging given the overlap of signs and symptoms with other less emergent conditions. Early diagnosis of compartment syndrome is important to decrease morbidity, which can result from a delayed diagnosis of compartment syndrome. To our knowledge, this is the first case report to describe the use of bedside ultrasound to aid in the diagnosis of compartment syndrome and accelerate the care for a patient who presented with a traumatic thigh hematoma, which rapidly progressed to compartment syndrome and required emergent operative intervention.

Keywords: Ultrasound; bedside ultrasound; compartment syndrome; hematoma; point-of-care ultrasound.

Publication types

  • Case Reports