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A retrospective review of the cases of 180 patients who had 198 acute open fractures of the tibial shaft and were admitted to a multiple-trauma referral center over a three-year period revealed an incidence of accompanying compartment syndrome of 9.1 per cent (eighteen fractures in sixteen patients). Each of the eighteen compartment syndromes was documented by measurements of intracompartmental pressure that were obtained by the saline-injection technique, and all were treated by four-compartment fasciotomy. The incidence of compartment syndrome was found to be directly proportional to the degree of injury to soft tissue and bone; this complication occurred most often in association with a comminuted, grade-III open injury to a pedestrian. The physician must maintain a high index of suspicion to detect a compartment syndrome in the patient who has multiple trauma, as its clinical signs and symptoms may be masked by a closed injury of the head or the need for ventilatory support or prolonged anesthesia for other surgical procedures.