Acute compartment syndrome is a common type of injury that occurs in traumatic accidents, such as car accidents, slip and fall accidents, or accidents where all or part of the body becomes crushed. The body parts that are the most prone to developing compartment syndrome are the arms, legs, and abdomen. Without immediate medical treatment, victims can suffer permanent muscle damage, nerve damage, limb amputations, and even death. Below, our legal team explains more on the symptoms, causes, and treatments of acute compartment syndrome.
If you have suffered a catastrophic injury due to someone else’s negligence, you have grounds to file a personal injury lawsuit. Albany personal injury lawyers at Bailey, Johnson & Peck have more than 40 years of experience in obtaining justice and fair compensation on behalf of injured victims. We can do the same for you, all while protecting your legal rights. Call 518-456-0082 to schedule a free consultation at our law firm today.
What is Compartment Syndrome?
Before we go into the full explanation of compartment syndrome, let’s first go over what a compartment is in the body. A compartment is a group of muscles, blood vessels, and nerves in the body. A fascia – which is a thin layer of connective tissue – covers all muscle compartments in the body in order to keep it in its place. Fascias don’t have much room to stretch.
Now – what is compartment syndrome? Compartment syndrome is a type of injury characterized by increased pressure in and around the muscles. This compartment pressure is usually caused by internal bleeding or swelling. Compartment pressure is extremely painful and dangerous because it can cut off blood flow and oxygen to the muscle compartment. Extreme cases of this injury can lead to major damage to the muscle tissue in the affected compartment and even death.
Compartment syndrome most commonly occurs in the legs, abdomen, arms, and buttocks.
Types of Compartment Syndrome
There are two main types of compartment syndrome:
- Acute Compartment Syndrome occurs due to a major accident or injury. This type of injury is considered a medical emergency. Without immediate medical treatment, affected muscles and nerves can suffer permanent damage due to lack of blood supply. This can lead to permanent paralysis, disability, and death.
- Chronic Compartment Syndrome is also known as exertional compartment syndrome because it’s generally caused by intense exercise. Chronic exertional compartment syndrome is not a medical emergency. Instead, it’s considered a relatively minor injury. With quick treatment, the patient should make a full recovery.
How Common is Compartment Syndrome in the U.S.?
Acute compartment syndrome occurs in approximately 7 out of every 100,000 males and 0.7 out of every 100,000 females in the United States according to a recent study. The most common cause of these injuries are tibial shaft fractures, occurring in up to 10% of cases. Additionally, the study states that men under the age of 35 are more likely to suffer from this condition because they generally have a larger intracompartmental muscle mass and they are more likely to suffer major physical trauma.
Symptoms of Compartment Syndrome
Compartment syndrome usually creates the following symptoms:
- Severe pain and tightness, especially when you try to move the affected muscle
- Obvious swelling or bulging of the muscle
- Numbness in the affected body part
- Paresthesias, which is a tingling or burning sensation under the skin
What Causes Compartment Syndrome?
Common causes of compartment syndrome include:
- Crush injuries from when something falls on you and crushes you
- Broken bones
- Severe muscle bruising
- A sudden improvement in blood supply after a bout of extremely poor circulation (surgery, blood clots, or losing consciousness can cause this)
- Intense, repetitive exercise
- Anabolic steroids, which can rapidly increase muscle size
- Tight casts or bandages which can negatively impact blood flow
Motor vehicle accidents such as car accidents, truck accidents, pedestrian accidents, bicycle accidents, and motorcycle accidents are common causes of traumatic acute compartment syndrome. This is because people can suffer a crush injury, a broken bone, a loss of consciousness, muscle bruising, or all of the above during a car accident.
Meanwhile, chronic exertional compartment syndrome is most commonly caused by anabolic steroid use, sports injuries, and/or intense exercise.
Diagnosing Compartment Syndrome
If you have any of the aforementioned symptoms of compartment syndrome, go to an emergency room immediately so that you can receive a clinical diagnosis and appropriate treatment. A doctor will make a diagnosis through the following methods:
- Physical Exam: Your doctor will physically examine your affected limb or abdomen. This exam will help them rule out other injuries that have similar symptoms, such as tendinitis or shin splints.
- X-ray: Because many cases of acute compartment syndrome are caused by broken bones, your doctor will likely order an x-ray to check your bones.
- Compartment Pressure Measurement Test: Because compartment syndrome is all about increased tissue pressure, your doctor will likely order this test. It specifically detects how much pressure is in a compartment of the body. In order to complete this test, a doctor will insert a needle into the lower leg, abdomen, or any other part of the body that may be experiencing excessive pressure. The machine attached to the needle will give a pressure reading.
Treatments for Compartment Syndrome
Treatment methods for this injury depend on which type of compartment syndrome the patient is suffering from.
Acute Compartment Syndrome
Doctors will treat acute compartment syndrome in the limbs with a fasciotomy, which is when the doctor makes a long incision in the skin and fascia in order to relieve pressure. A similar method, called a decompressive laparotomy, is used to treat abdominal compartment syndrome. The doctor will cut through the skin and abdominal wall in order to release the pressure.
Once the compartment pressures go down to normal, the doctor will stitch up the incision. In some cases, patients with acute compartment syndrome need a skin graft in order to close the incision.
Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome
This type of compartment syndrome generally affects the legs. The best way to treat leg compartment syndrome is to stop exercising. A doctor may also recommend the following treatments:
- Pain medicine such as NSAIDs
- Trying different methods of exercise, preferably low impact exercise
- Putting orthotic inserts in your shoes
- Physical therapy stretches
- Doing high impact exercise on softer surfaces instead of concrete
If none of this works, a doctor may recommend a fasciotomy.
Complications From Compartment Syndrome
Failure to receive treatment for this injury in a timely manner can result in the following complications:
- Rigid and deformed muscles
- Permanent muscle damage
- Permanent nerve damage
- Paralysis in the lower leg(s) or other affected body part
- Amputation of the lower leg(s)
Can You Sue for Compartment Syndrome?
Yes, you can sue for compartment syndrome if the injury was directly caused by someone else’s negligence. For example, if you suffered this type of injury during a slip and fall accident or a car accident, you may be able to recover financial compensation through a personal injury lawsuit.
Proving Negligence in a Personal Injury Claim
In order to have the strongest personal injury claim possible, you must prove the four elements of negligence. Albany personal injury lawyers at Bailey, Johnson & Peck can help you do this.
- Duty of Care: Everyone owes each other a certain standard of care in order to promote safety. For example, all drivers on the roads must exercise reasonable care by driving sober and distraction-free in order to protect themselves and others. Similarly, property owners must exercise reasonable care by keeping their premises free of hazardous conditions that could result in a slip and fall accident.
- Breached Duty of Care: A driver or property owner breached this duty of care.
- Causation: As a result of this breached duty of care, someone suffered acute compartment syndrome.
- Damages: The injured person suffered a variety of damages from acute compartment syndrome for which they receive financial compensation.
Personal Injury Damages
Albany personal injury lawyers at Bailey, Johnson & Peck can help injured victims recover financial compensation for the following types of damages:
- Past and future medical bills
- Past and future physical therapy bills
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity if the injury results in permanent paralysis or disability which prevents you from completing your normal job duties
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Permanent paralysis or disability
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
Call an Albany Personal Injury Lawyer at Bailey, Johnson & Peck Today
If you have suffered a severe injury due to someone else’s negligence, you have grounds to take legal action. Albany personal injury lawyers at Bailey, Johnson & Peck have been helping their injured clients recover fair financial compensation for car accident injuries, slip and fall injuries, construction accident injuries, ski accident injuries, and more for more than 40 years. We can do the same for you. Call 518-456-0082 to schedule a free consultation at our law firm today.