Compartment Syndrome

Compartment syndrome is much more serious than its name implies.

Groupings of muscles, tendons, nerves, and blood vessels in the trunk and limbs (arms and legs) of our body form “compartments” and are held together and covered by membranes known as fascia.

Compartment syndrome is a medical condition that occurs when excessive pressure builds up within these compartments inside the body, typically as a result of excess internal bleeding or swelling.  This excessive pressure compresses nerves and reduces the flow of blood to and from areas of the body.  Over time, this can result in severe nerve damage and potentially permanent injury due to lack of oxygen flow to various parts of the body.  The most common areas of the body affected by compartment syndrome are the legs, fee, hand, and arms.  If not treated quickly and properly, compartment syndrome can lead to permanent damage, amputation of limbs, or death.

While there are many types, acute and chronic are the most common. Compartment syndrome is often described in various degrees, and can include a wide variety of symptoms, including severe pain in the area of the affected body part, prickly sensation throughout the affected area (also known as paresthesia), not having a detectable pulse in the affected area, paralysis in the affected limb due to dead muscle tissue, and welling that becomes hard and dry due to the lack of blood flow.

Compartment syndrome is potentially life threatening.  Some of the injuries that may result from improperly treated compartment syndrome include:

  • Permanent nerve damage
  • Amputation of limbs
  • Renal failure
  • Death

Causes of Acute Compartment Syndrome

Acute compartment syndrome typically develops rapidly, in as little as a few hours, and is most commonly associated with fractures to the arms or legs.  It is associated with fractures that may occur as a result of swelling or bleeding from the fracture itself, or as a result of treatment of the fracture from a cast or surgery.  In addition to fractures, acute compartment syndrome can be caused by:

  • Blood clots in an arm or leg vessel
  • Overly tight bandages
  • Burns
  • Injuries from crushing forces

In addition to the above causes, this potentially life threatening medical condition can also be caused by medical errors.  Compartment syndrome due to medical errors can result from:

  • Prolonged compression of a limb
  • Over tightening bandaging
  • Errors in knee and elbow surgical procedures
  • Errors in treating broken bones

Because a patient’s right to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit based on a medical error is limited in time, once a potential error is uncovered, it is extremely important to contact an experience medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible.

Know your rights.  If you or a loved one has been the victim of a medical error that resulted in injuries from compartment syndrome, call the experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Powers Taylor for a free consultation.  All calls are confidential.

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