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Undersea Hyperb Med. 2018 Nov-Dec;45(6):689-693.

Compartment syndrome in the forearm related to carbon monoxide intoxication: case report.

Author information

Department of Emergency Medicine, Soonchunhyang University Bucheon Hospital, Bucheon, Korea.



Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is one of the most common forms of intoxication around the world. One of the complications associated with CO exposure is direct toxicity to the skeletal muscles. Though compartment syndrome induced by CO intoxication is rare, it is a well-known complication. In this study, we present a case of CO poisoning in a patient who developed compartment syndrome in his forearm.

Case report:

A 22-year-old man was found unconscious in a motel where a briquette had burned. He was later diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis associated with CO poisoning. After he regained consciousness, he experienced difficulty in moving his left arm, with sensory impairment in the same arm. He was diagnosed with compartment syndrome, and an emergency fasciotomy was performed. One month later, electromyography was performed which revealed left median, ulnar, radial, and musculocutaneous nerve palsy.


Compartment syndrome induced by CO intoxication is rare but is a well-known complication. Compartment syndrome is a limb-threatening and life-threatening condition. If untreated, the pressure in the muscle may rise, which can lead to tissue necrosis. Generally, nerve paralysis does not occur in CO poisoning. In our case, it occurred as median, ulnar, radial and musculocutaneous nerve palsy.


Side effects of CO poisoning can be extant, especially for those who are unconscious since they cannot express pain, numbness, and motor weakness. It is important to not overlook compartment syndrome, to double-check whether there is swelling, change in skin color, or skin firmness in extremities, and to observe the patient closely.


carbon monoxide poisoning ; compartment syndromes ; fasciotomy ; hyperbaric oxygen therapy ; musculoskeletal ; nerve palsy ; rhabdomyolysis

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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