Compartment Syndrome in the Limbs

Nabil Ebraheim pic
Nabil Ebraheim
Image: uthealth.utoledo.edu

Dr. Nabil Ebraheim chairs the department of orthopedic surgery at the University of Toledo Medical Center, where he also serves as the chief of orthopedic trauma and directs the orthopedic trauma fellowship. Possessing an in-depth knowledge of chronic and acute orthopedic conditions, Dr. Nabil Ebraheim is currently authoring a book that addresses compartment syndrome.

Compartment syndrome occurs as a result of excess pressure in a confined space within the body. It is common in the groups of muscles, blood vessels, and nerves in the extremities, where a strong membrane known as the fascia keeps these structures contained. If bleeding or swelling develops within one of these compartments, it inhibits proper blood flow and threatens permanent damage to both muscle and nerve cells.

Most cases of compartment syndrome are acute, meaning that they develop as a result of a broken bone or other injury. The condition may also arise due to the use of anabolic steroids or to inhibited blood flow caused by a tight cast or bandage. Compressed limbs in unconscious patients may lead to acute compression syndrome as well, as may blood clots or the sudden surgical reopening of a blocked blood vessel.

Fewer cases of compartment syndrome are chronic, in that they result from excessive repetitive motions. This most often occurs in athletes and is thus also known as exertional compartment syndrome. Unlike acute compartment syndrome, which can result in muscle tissue death if untreated, exertional compartment syndrome most often resolves on its own if the patient stops the aggravating movement.

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