Compartment syndromes from head to toe

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Compartment syndrome is defined as the dysfunction of organs/tissues within the compartment due to limited blood supply caused by increased pressure within the compartment. The aim of this article is to introduce and discuss acute compartment syndromes that are essential for critical care physicians to recognize and manage. Various pathophysiological mechanisms (ischemia-reperfusion syndrome, direct trauma, localized bleeding) could lead to increased compartmental pressure and decreased blood flow through the intracompartmental capillaries. Although compartment syndromes are described in virtually all body regions, the etiology, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention are best characterized for three key body regions (extremity, abdominal, and thoracic compartment syndromes). Compartment syndromes can be classified as either primary (pathology/injury is within the compartment) or secondary (no primary pathology or injury within the compartment), and based on the etiology (e.g., trauma, burn, sepsis). A recently described phenomenon is the “multiple” compartment syndrome or “poly”-compartment syndrome, which is usually a complication of a severe shock and massive resuscitation. The prevention of compartment syndromes is based on preemptive open management of compartments (primary syndromes) in high-risk patients and/or careful fluid resuscitation (both primary and secondary syndromes) to limit interstitial swelling.

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