Compartment Syndrome is caused by the buildup of pressure within one of the compartments. Following an injury, blood or fluid caused by swelling can accumulate within the compartment. Because the walls of the compartment are formed fascia, which is dense and inelastic, blood or fluid that accumulates within the compartment cause pressure inside the compartment to rise.
The pressure inside a compartment can be measured by a hand-held device called a manometer which works by injecting a small amount of liquid solution into the compartment and then measuring the tissue pressure resistance. If Compartment Syndrome is suspected, these devices are essential to making an accurate diagnosis. Normal compartment pressure measurements are between 0 and 8mmHg. If the pressure inside a compartment reaches 20mmHg, patients often experience pain.
If the pressure continues to rise above 20mmHg, it can significantly limit or prevent blood flow to inside of the compartment, in its entirety. If this occurs, the impacted arm or leg becomes at significant risk for massive tissue damage. This is because when blood flow into the compartment is compromised, the tissue within the compartment no longer receives sufficient quantities of the oxygen-rich blood it requires to remain viable. When Compartment Syndrome occurs over a prolonged period of time, toxins are released into the body from decaying and dying muscle tissue that can accumulate in the kidneys and cause kidney failure.