Acute Traumatic Compartment Syndrome of the Leg in Children: Diagnosis and Outcome

Flynn, John M.; Bashyal, Ravi K.; Yeger-McKeever, Meira; Garner, Matthew R.; Launay, Franck; Sponseller, Paul D.
May 2011
Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, American Volume;5/18/2011, Vol. 93-A Issue 10, p937
Academic Journal
Background: Currently, the most common clinical scenario for compartment syndrome in children is acute traumatic compartment syndrome of the leg. We studied the cause, diagnosis, treatment, and outcome of acute traumatic com- partment syndrome of the leg in children. Methods: Forty-three cases of acute traumatic compartment syndrome of the leg in forty-two skeletally immature patients were collected from two large pediatric trauma centers over a seventeen-year period. All children with acute traumatic compartment syndrome underwent fasciotomy. The mechanism of injury, date and time of injury, time to diagnosis; compartment pressures, time to fasciotomy, and outcome at the time of the latest follow-up were recorded. Results: Thirty-five (83%) of the forty-two patients were injured in a motor-vehicle accident and sustained tibial and fibular fractures. The average time from injury to fasciotomy was 20.5 hours (range, 3.9 to 118 hours). In general, the functional outcome was excellent at the time of the latest follow-up. No cases of infection were noted when fasciotomy was performed long after the injury. At the time of the latest follow-up, forty-one (95%) of forty-three cases were associated with no sequelae (such as pain, loss of function, or decreased sensation). The two patients who lost function had fasciotomy 82.5 and eighty-six hours after the injury. Conclusions: Despite a long period from injury to fasciotomy, most children who are managed for acute traumatic compartment syndrome of the leg have an excellent outcome. This delay may occur because acute traumatic compartment syndrome manifests itself more slowly in children or because the diagnosis is harder to establish in this age group. The results of the present study should raise awareness of late presentation and the importance of vigilance for developing compartment syndrome in the early days after injury. Fasciotomy during the acute swelling phase, even long after injury, produced excellent results with no cases of infection. Level of Evidence: Therapeutic Level IV. See Instructions to Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.


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