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Acute Compartment Syndrome in the Foot

Compartment syndrome is a painful condition that occurs from an increase in pressure within the muscles. Increase in pressure above normal levels can decrease blood supply to the muscles and nerves in that area which can result in permanent tissue damage.

Acute compartment syndrome is a medical emergency. It is usually caused by trauma such as a crush injury, a fracture or a constricting bandage or cast.

Chronic compartment syndrome is not a medical emergency. It is usually caused by repetitive physical activity such as running.

There are 9 compartments in the foot and each compartment has a fascia covering to keep the tissues in place. This fascia does not stretch easily and following an injury, swelling or bleeding can occur, resulting in increased pressure within the compartments. If the pressure is not released, permanent tissue damage can occur.

Symptoms – The 6 P’s of Compartment Syndrome

  • Pain out of proportion and not relieved by narcotics
  • Pulselessness
  • Parasthesia
  • Paralysis
  • Pallor
  • Poikilothermia

If you experience these symptoms, seek medical advice immediately

A wicker catheter is a device that is used to measure compartment pressures. Normal compartment pressure in the foot is between 0-8mmHg. A compartment pressure measuring >30mmHg or 10-30mmHg below diastolic pressure is concerning and emergent fasciotomy may be needed.

Depending on which foot compartments are affected incisions are made over the compartments to relive pressure. Fasciotomy incisions are left open 5 days to allow edema and swelling to dissipate. After the pressure has been adequately reduced the surgical sites are closed.

Acute compartment syndrome is a surgical emergency and if not treated immediately permanent damage and tissue death can occur. For more information on acute compartment syndrome come see one of our physicians at Foot & Ankle Doctors, Inc

Dr. Dardashti

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