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Compartment Syndrome

Compartment Syndrome is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Emergency Consult.

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  • Elevated tissue pressure in closed spaces that compromises blood flow through capillaries
  • Normal tissue pressure is <10 mm Hg.
  • Capillary blood flow in a compartment is compromised at pressures >20 mm Hg.
  • Muscles and nerves can develop ischemic necrosis at pressures >30 mm Hg.
  • When distal pulses are diminished on exam, muscle necrosis is probably present.
  • The 4 compartments of the leg are most frequently involved, but compartment syndrome can occur in the arm, forearm, hand, foot, shoulder, buttocks, and thigh.


  • Decreased compartment size: Circumferential cast, burn eschar, or military antishock trousers (MAST)
  • Increased compartment contents: Compression of the compartment from edema or hematoma caused by direct trauma, fracture, overexertion of muscles, contrast extravasation, injection of recreational drugs, postischemic time, or limb compression during prolonged recumbency

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Rosen, Peter, et al., editors. "Compartment Syndrome." 5-Minute Emergency Consult, 5th ed., Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2016. Emergency Central, emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307291/all/Compartment_Syndrome.
Compartment Syndrome. In: Rosen P, Shayne P, Barkin AZ, et al, eds. 5-Minute Emergency Consult. 5th ed. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2016. https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307291/all/Compartment_Syndrome. Accessed April 22, 2019.
Compartment Syndrome. (2016). In Rosen, P., Shayne, P., Barkin, A. Z., Wolfe, R. E., Hayden, S. R., Barkin, R. M., & Schaider, J. J. (Eds.), 5-Minute Emergency Consult. Available from https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307291/all/Compartment_Syndrome
Compartment Syndrome [Internet]. In: Rosen P, Shayne P, Barkin AZ, Wolfe RE, Hayden SR, Barkin RM, Schaider JJ, editors. 5-Minute Emergency Consult. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2016. [cited 2019 April 22]. Available from: https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307291/all/Compartment_Syndrome.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - ELEC T1 - Compartment Syndrome ID - 307291 ED - Rosen,Peter, ED - Shayne,Philip, ED - Barkin,Adam Z, ED - Wolfe,Richard E, ED - Hayden,Stephen R, ED - Barkin,Roger M, ED - Schaider,Jeffrey J, BT - 5-Minute Emergency Consult UR - https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307291/all/Compartment_Syndrome PB - Lippincott Williams & Wilkins ET - 5 DB - Emergency Central DP - Unbound Medicine ER -