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J Bone Joint Surg Br. 1991 Mar;73(2):287-90.

Acute compartment syndrome. Effect of dermotomy on fascial decompression in the leg.

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Division of Orthopaedics, University of California, San Diego 92103.


Prompt surgical decompression is the only means of preventing the late sequelae of ischaemic contracture in post-traumatic compartment syndromes. However, controversy exists regarding the length of dermotomy required for adequate decompression in the lower extremity. This study investigated the skin envelope as a potential contributing factor. Wide fascial releases were performed through limited 8 cm incisions in eight cases of post-traumatic lower extremity compartment syndrome. In nine of 29 compartments the pressure remained greater than 30 mmHg. Lengthening the skin incisions to an average of 16 cm decreased intracompartmental pressures significantly. This study documents the skin envelope as a contributing factor in acute compartment syndromes of the leg. The use of generous skin incisions is supported and the need for intra-operative compartment pressure measurements in the treatment of this condition is emphasised.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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