During a car accident, your body suffers the consequences of the speed and force of the collision. Parts of your body may become crushed in the accident, leading to compartment syndrome.
According to Medline Plus, acute compartment syndrome occurs when pressure increases in the muscle compartment.
How does compartment syndrome occur?
There are two types of compartment syndrome. Acute compartment syndrome occurs after an accident, whereas chronic compartment syndrome occurs after repetitive injuries. During a car accident, the trauma from a crush injury, broken bone, bruised muscle, sprain or tight bandage can cause compartment syndrome.
You have thick layers of tissue known as fascia that separate your muscle groups in your arms and legs. You have compartments inside each layer of fascia. The compartments house your nerves, blood vessels and tissue. You may want to picture insulation over wires when you think of fascia.
Compartment syndrome happens because your fascia cannot expand. If you have swelling in the compartment, the pressure increases in the area. The pressure affects your muscles, nerves and blood vessels. If the pressure rises to a high enough level, you may lose blood flow to the area. Compartment syndrome can result in permanent injuries if your muscle begins to die. Sometimes amputation is the only way to correct the problem in limbs.
How do physicians treat compartment syndrome?
Compartment syndrome happens most often in the forearm or lower leg. Other common areas are the hand, thigh, buttocks, foot and upper arm. To treat compartment syndrome, doctors may use emergency surgery to reduce the pressure. Surgeons have to make an incision to open the skin and fascia.
Immediate treatment of crush injuries and compartment syndrome may save a patient’s limbs.