Non-invasive assessment of muscle compartment elasticity by pressure-related ultrasound in pediatric trauma: a prospective clinical study in 25 cases of forearm shaft fractures

Eur J Med Res. 2023 Aug 25;28(1):296. doi: 10.1186/s40001-023-01232-1.


Background: Soft-tissue swelling after limb fractures in pediatric patients is well known to be a risk factor for developing acute compartment syndrome (ACS). Clinical assessment alone is uncertain in specific cases. Recently, we proposed a non-invasive ultrasound-based method to objectify muscle compartment elasticity for monitoring. We hypothesize a strong correlation between the soft-tissue swelling after stabilization of upper limb fractures and the compartment elasticity objectified with a novel ultrasound-based approach in pediatric trauma.

Patients and methods: In a prospective clinical study, children suffering forearm fractures but not developing an ACS were included. The muscle compartment elasticity of the m. flexor carpi ulnaris was assessed after surgical intervention by a non-invasive, ultrasound-based method resulting in a relative elasticity (RE in %) in both the control (healthy limb) and study group (fractured limb). Soft-tissue swelling was categorized in four different levels (0-3) and correlated with the resulting RE (%).

Results: The RE in the study group (15.67%, SD ± 3.06) showed a significantly decreased level (p < 0.001) compared with the control (22.77%, SD ± 5.4). The categorized grade of soft-tissue swelling resulted in a moderate correlation with the RE (rs = 0.474).

Conclusions: The presented study appears to represent a novel approach to assess the posttraumatic pressure changes in a muscle compartment after fracture stabilization non-invasively. In this first clinical study in pediatric cases, our measurement method represents a low-cost, easy, and secure approach that has the potential to substitute invasive measurement of suspected ACS in muscle compartment conditions. Further investigations in lager cohorts are required to prove its daily clinical practicability and to confirm the expected reliability.

Keywords: Acute compartment syndrome; Muscle compartment; Non-invasive; Pressure-related ultrasound; Relative elasticity.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Elasticity
  • Forearm* / diagnostic imaging
  • Fractures, Bone* / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Muscles
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reproducibility of Results