Compartment Pressure in Association with Closed Tibial Fractures. The Relationship between Tissue Pressure, Compartment, and the Distance from the Site of the Fracture.


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Abstract

We studied twenty-five consecutive patients who had a closed tibial fracture to determine whether there was a relationship between compartment pressure and the distance at which the pressure was measured from the site of the fracture. Tissue pressure was measured in all four compartments of the leg at the level of the fracture and at five-centimeter increments proximal and distal to the fracture. The peak pressure was usually found at the level of the fracture and was always located within five centimeters of the fracture. The highest pressures were recorded in the anterior and the deep posterior compartments in twenty patients, including all five of those who had had a fasciotomy. The measured pressure decreased steadily when sampled at increasing distances proximal and distal to the site of the highest recorded pressure. Decreases of twenty millimeters of mercury (2.67 kilopascals) five centimeters adjacent to the site of the peak pressure were common.Compartment syndrome was diagnosed in five patients on the basis of clinical findings, and the diagnosis was confirmed when peak compartment pressures of more than the critical threshold (within twenty millimeters of mercury (2.67 kilopascals) of the diastolic blood pressure) were recorded. Three of these five patients had measured pressures that were less than the critical threshold within five centimeters of the site of the peak pressure.Failure to measure tissue pressure within a few centimeters of the zone of peak pressure may result in a serious underestimation of the maximum compartment pressure.Our results suggest that measurements should be performed in both the anterior and the deep posterior compartments at the level of the fracture as well as at locations proximal and distal to the zone of the fracture to determine reliably the location of the highest tissue pressure in a lower extremity when a compartment syndrome is suspected clinically. The highest pressure should be used in the decision-making process.

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