Compartment Syndrome: A Medical Emergency

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Compartment syndrome is an emergency medical condition that occurs when pressure builds up inside one of the muscle compartments of the body.  Usually the result of trauma or over-exertion, compartment syndrome can be both limb-threatening and life-threatening.  When swelling occurs inside of a closed muscle compartment, the pressure can build up rapidly because the muscle compartments are not expandable.  If the pressure reaches a certain point, the arteries which supply blood to the muscles and nerves become compressed, which can cause permanent damage to tissues and nerves.  If the compartment syndrome is not timely diagnosed and treated, usually by surgical decompression, the consequences can be devastating and can include permanent paralysis, limb loss, and even death.

The symptoms of compartment syndrome include severe pain, numbness and tingling, or a feeling of tightness or burning in the affected extremity.  If you experience these symptoms, especially following an injury or a period of vigorous exercise, you should immediately seek medical attention.  Doctors can perform a neuro-vascular examination of the affected extremity and, if necessary, they can directly measure the pressures inside of the muscle compartment using a special catheter.  If the pressures are sufficiently elevated, the patient will require an emergency fasciotomy surgery which entails making deep incisions into the muscle compartment in order to relieve the pressure and swelling.  If the pressure is not relieved in a timely fashion, the muscles and nerves will die, which can lead to amputation and possible renal failure or even death.  

Dever and Feldstein, LLC formerly represented a professional basket player who suffered a severe lower leg fracture while playing basketball.  He was taken to the hospital and placed in a cast by an orthopedic surgeon who wisely decided to admit our client to the hospital for overnight observation.  The orthopedic surgeon wrote orders to the nurses to perform neuro-vascular checks every two hours in order to identify any signs or symptoms of a developing compartment syndrome.  Tragically, the nurses failed to follow these orders, and when the orthopedic surgeon returned the next morning, he discovered that our client's leg was extremely swollen and neurovascularly compromised.  Our client was rushed into emergency fasciotomy surgery, but by this point the muscle had become partially necrotic and there was permanent damage to the nerves of the lower leg.  Our client was left with a significant limp and his career as a profession basketball player was over.  Our firm took on the case and retained several prominent orthopedic surgery experts who testified that the hospital nurses had breached the standard of care and thereby caused our client's permanent injuries.  After two years of hard fought litigation, we obtained a signficant settlement for our client, which compensated him for his lost future earnings, as well as his pain and disability.

If you or someone you know has suffered significant injuries due to a delay in diagnosis of compartment syndrome or other serious medical condition, please contact our firm for a confidential, no-charge consultation.    

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Joe Dever published on July 22, 2009 8:29 AM.

Unexplained Ear Pain in an Adult Requires Prompt Evalaution was the previous entry in this blog.

Coumadin - A Drug That Requires Close Monitoring is the next entry in this blog.

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