Compartment syndrome is a painful condition that develops when
swelling takes place within an enclosed area (compartment), in which muscles,
nerves, blood vessels, and bones in the compartment have no room to expand.
Pressure on arteries, veins, and nerves causes extreme pain, slows circulation
to the muscles and nerves, and may cause permanent damage to these tissues.
The swelling that causes compartment syndrome may be caused by
decreased blood flow, trauma, bleeding, fluid buildup, or other things. Compartment syndrome is a medical emergency. It requires immediate treatment to
prevent tissue death and permanent dysfunction.
Occasionally, people involved in a greatly increased level of
physical activity—such as long-distance runners or new military recruits—may
develop chronic compartment syndrome. With chronic compartment syndrome,
symptoms are less sudden, less severe, and often improve with rest.
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & David Messenger, MD