What Is Compartment Syndrome?
Compartment Syndrome can be defined as potentially serious pathological condition involving the muscles, tissues, and ligaments as a result of increased pressure within a muscle compartment.1 Compartment is a group of muscles, tissues, and nerves in the arms and legs which is surrounded by an extremely strong membrane called as fascia. If there is any injury to the muscle structures within the compartment along with swelling, there will be increased pressure within the compartment as the fascia is so strong that it does not expand in any way as a result of swelling within the compartment. This increased pressure within the compartment results in injuries to the muscles, blood vessels, and nerves causing a variety of symptoms.
The increased pressure within the compartment can cause complete obstruction of blood supply resulting in insufficient oxygen reaching the compartment due to the obstruction causing cell necrosis and ischemia. This is what is called as compartment syndrome.
Compartment Syndrome normally develops as a result of swelling or bleeding within the compartment, which obstructs the blood flow to this area causing increase in the pressure within the compartment and damaging the nerves and tissues within. If left untreated, the compartment syndrome may lead to cell necrosis and ultimately requiring amputation of the affected region.
What Is The Prognosis Of Compartment Syndrome?
The overall prognosis of compartment syndrome depends on how early the condition is diagnosed. Delay in diagnosis may be catastrophic for the affected individual. If the diagnosis is made early enough before the muscle, nerves, and tissue structures within the compartment get necrosed and treated with surgery to decrease the pressure within the compartment then the prognosis for normal return of function is quite good.
If, left untreated due to delayed diagnosis, then the prognosis for such individuals is extremely guarded to poor with amputation of the affected region becoming a necessity.
In conclusion, the overall outlook for Compartment Syndrome in most of the cases is excellent if the condition is diagnosed early and treatment is started to relieve the pressure off of the compartment. This is usually done through a surgical procedure called fasciectomy. However, if the diagnosis gets delayed and the pressure keeps on increasing within the compartment and treatment is not started then the prognosis significantly worsens and with every passing day the chances of losing the affected arm or leg increases.
Thus, it is highly recommended that if an individual has even a slightest symptom of the compartment syndrome, they should consult with the treating physician for an early diagnosis and treatment so that the prognosis for complete recovery from compartment syndrome remains excellent.