Surgical Treatment of Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome in Pediatric Patients

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Abstract

Background:

Chronic exertional compartment syndrome (CECS) is a cause of leg pain in running athletes and is treated with fasciotomy after failure of nonoperative management. CECS is being seen with increased frequency in younger patients. The demographics and outcomes of fasciotomy for CECS in pediatric patients, including risk factors for treatment failure, have not been described.

Purpose:

To describe characteristics of pediatric patients with CECS and determine surgical outcomes of the condition in this population.

Study Design:

Case series; Level of evidence, 4.

Methods:

A retrospective review was performed for patients 18 years and younger treated surgically for CECS with compartment release at a single institution from 1995 to 2014. Demographic and condition characteristics, operative procedure, postoperative course, and clinical outcomes were recorded for 286 legs of 155 patients. Compartment pressure testing using the Pedowitz criteria confirmed the diagnosis in all patients.

Results:

A total of 155 patients were included in the study (average patient age at presentation, 16.4 ± 1.38 years); 136 (88%) were female. All 155 patients presented with leg pain; of these patients, 8 (5%) also had neurologic symptoms, and 131 (85%) presented with bilateral symptoms requiring bilateral compartment release. Symptoms were chronic in nature, with duration over 1 year in 63% of patients. The primary sport was most commonly reported as running (25%), soccer (23%), or field hockey (12%); 50% of patients were multisport athletes. Of 286 legs, 138 (48%) had only anterior and/or lateral compartments released, while 84 (29.4%) had all 4 compartments released. Documented return to sport was seen in 79.5% of patients. Outcomes analysis was performed for 250 of 286 legs. Of these 250 legs, 47 (18.8%) had recurrent CECS requiring reoperation at a median of 1.3 years (interquartile range, 0.8-3.5) after initial compartment release. For each additional month between presentation and release, the odds of recurrence decreased by 12% (P = .04). Legs with only anterior and/or lateral compartment released had 3.4 times (95% CI, 1.29-9.14) the odds of reoperation compared with legs that had all 4 compartments released (P = .01). Twenty-eight of 250 legs (11.2%) had wound issues that resolved with nonoperative management. No wounds required repeat surgical management.

Conclusion:

CECS in pediatric patients most commonly occurs in adolescent females participating in running sports. Fasciotomy results in a 79.5% return-to-sports rate. Recurrence occurs in 18.8% of patients, more commonly in patients undergoing anterior and lateral release only.

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