Compartment syndrome is a condition in which there is a buildup of pressure inside a muscle compartment. A muscle compartment consists of muscle tissue, blood vessels, and nerves which are all enclosed in fascia, a sheet of connective tissue around muscles which stabilizes, surrounds, and separates the muscle.

Since fascia is not flexible and does not expand, pressure inside the compartment can cause injury to the muscles, blood vessels, and nerves which are part of the group.

Pressure in the compartment can come in the form of bleeding or swelling. The pressure can cut off blood supply to the muscles, endangering the affected limb. Muscle compartments most commonly affected are in the legs and arms.

Acute Compartment Syndrome

Aside from fracture, other injuries that can lead to acute compartment syndrome include:

  • A blood clot in a blood vessel in the arm or leg
  • A burn
  • Compression of a limb during a period of unconsciousness
  • Crush injury
  • Overly tight bandaging
  • Surgery to blood vessels

The nature of acute compartment syndrome is sudden and intense, as are the symptoms. This condition is considered a medical emergency, and must be treated immediately with surgery. Left untreated, it can result in nerve damage or amputation.