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Instr Course Lect. 2011;60:43-50.

Diagnosis and treatment of less common compartment syndromes of the upper and lower extremities: current evidence and best practices.

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Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY, USA.


Compartment syndromes of the forearm, gluteal region, thigh, and foot have not been extensively studied. To provide best-practice recommendations, the available evidence from four systematic reviews of English-language reports with two or more patients with compartment syndromes of the forearm, gluteal region, thigh, and foot were reviewed and compared. For each case of compartment syndrome, the cause, method of diagnosis, treatment options, and outcomes were determined. Most compartment syndromes were caused by trauma, with the exception of gluteal compartment syndrome, which usually resulted from prolonged immobilization and postarthroplasty analgesia. The diagnosis was often based on clinical findings, with compartment pressure measurements performed in approximately 50% of the patients. Compartment pressure measurements of the foot were more commonly obtained (in 64% of the patients). Compartment syndrome of the forearm and thigh were treated surgically in 73% and 100% of patients, respectively. Complications occurred with all four compartment syndromes, with nerve deficits and stiffness being the most common problems. Reports on functional outcomes lacked uniformity and did not allow for meaningful comparisons. Management principles for the less common compartment syndromes are the same as those used in treating compartment syndrome of the calf. Gluteal compartment syndrome usually has a nontraumatic etiology and is less likely to be surgically treated, probably because of major systemic complications and late presentation. Complications are common after these four types of compartment syndrome, but outcomes data are lacking.

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