Health Encyclopedia

Compartment Syndrome

Compartment Syndrome

Compartment syndrome is a painful condition that develops when swelling takes place within an enclosed area (compartment), in which muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and bones in the compartment have no room to expand. Pressure on arteries, veins, and nerves causes extreme pain, slows circulation to the muscles and nerves, and may cause permanent damage to these tissues.

The swelling that causes compartment syndrome may be caused by decreased blood flow, trauma, bleeding, fluid buildup, or other things. Compartment syndrome is a medical emergency. It requires immediate treatment to prevent tissue death and permanent dysfunction.

Occasionally, people involved in a greatly increased level of physical activity—such as long-distance runners or new military recruits—may develop chronic compartment syndrome. With chronic compartment syndrome, symptoms are less sudden, less severe, and often improve with rest.

Last Revised: October 11, 2012

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & David Messenger, MD

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2013 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

USNWR 2013-2014Magnet Hospital RecognitionConsumer Choice2014 Best DoctorsJoint Commission Report

Disclaimer: The information on this website is for general informational purposes only and SHOULD NOT be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice, evaluation or care from your physician or other qualified health care provider.