Diagnosis Accuracy for Compartment Syndrome: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

J Orthop Trauma. 2023 Aug 1;37(8):e319-e325. doi: 10.1097/BOT.0000000000002610.


Objective: To evaluate whether published studies support basing the diagnosis of compartment syndrome of the lower leg on clinical findings, intracompartmental pressure (ICP) monitoring, or both.

Data sources: A PubMed/MEDLINE, Web of Science, and Embase search of the English literature from 1966 to February 2022 was performed. This used "lower extremity" or "leg" or "tibia" and "compartment syndrome" and "pressure" as the subjects. A manual search of the bibliographies was performed and cross-referenced with those used to formulate the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons clinical practice guidelines.

Study selection and extraction: Inclusion criteria were traumatic tibia injuries, presence of data to calculate the sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values of clinical findings and/or pressure monitoring, and the presence or absence of compartment syndrome as the outcome. A total of 2906 full articles were found, of which 63 were deemed relevant for a detailed review. Seven studies met all eligibility criteria.

Data synthesis: The likelihood ratio form of Bayes theorem was used to assess the discriminatory ability of the clinical findings and ICP monitoring as tests for compartment syndrome. The predictive value for diagnosing acute compartment syndrome was 21% and 29% for the clinical signs and ICP, respectively. When combining both, the probability reached 68%.

Conclusions: The use of ICP monitoring may be helpful when combined with a clinical assessment to increase the sensitivity and specificity of the overall diagnosis. Previously accepted individual inference values should be revisited with new prospective studies to further characterize the statistical value of each clinical finding.

Level of evidence: Diagnostic Level III. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Bayes Theorem
  • Compartment Syndromes* / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Leg
  • Lower Extremity
  • Prospective Studies