What is compartment syndrome?

On Behalf of | Jan 11, 2021 | Catastrophic Injuries

When pressure builds up in an enclosed area of your body, this is compartment syndrome. Causes of compartment syndrome may include bleeding or swelling following an injury. According to WebMD, the pressure obstructs blood flow to the site.

Compartment syndrome is most common in the arms, legs and abdomen.

Causes of compartment syndrome

In most cases, compartment syndrome occurs after a break to the arm or the leg. Compartment syndrome may occur due to the break itself or it can occur due to surgery or casting. After an injury, blood accumulates in the compartment. As pressure rises, severe tissue damage can cause loss of function in the limb or death. Compartment syndrome may occur due to crush injuries, surgery on blood vessels, blood clots or prolonged compression of a limb.

When compartment syndrome occurs in the abdomen, the following may be potential causes:

  • Trauma
  • Sepsis
  • Pelvic fracture
  • Abdominal surgery

The pressure in the abdomen can damage your liver, kidneys or other organs.

Symptoms of compartment syndrome

Acute compartment syndrome typically takes a few hours to develop, following an injury. You may have numbness or tingling in your limb accompanied by swelling and bruising. Some patients present with pain considered worse than what you might expect for an injury of that nature. If you broke your arm or leg, you may feel a deep and persistent ache.

Most people who develop abdominal compartment syndrome cannot speak for themselves. In many cases, they may be on life support or in critical condition. Signs include a distended abdomen, pain when someone applies pressure to the abdomen and low blood pressure.