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Acute Compartment Syndrome of the Forearm
Andrew D. Duckworth, MSc, MRCSEd1; Sarah E. Mitchell, MRCSEd1; Samuel G. Molyneux, MSc, MRCSEd1; Timothy O. White, MD, FRCSEd(Tr&Orth)1; Charles M. Court-Brown, MD, FRCSEd(Orth)1; Margaret M. McQueen, MD, FRCSEd(Orth)1
1 Edinburgh Orthopaedic Trauma Unit, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, 51 Little France Crescent, Edinburgh EH16 4SU, United Kingdom. E-mail address for A.D. Duckworth: andrew.duckworth@yahoo.co.uk
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Investigation performed at the Edinburgh Orthopaedic Trauma Unit, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Disclosure: None of the authors received payments or services, either directly or indirectly (i.e., via his or her institution), from a third party in support of any aspect of this work. None of the authors, or their institution(s), have had any financial relationship, in the thirty-six months prior to submission of this work, with any entity in the biomedical arena that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. Also, no author has had any other relationships, or has engaged in any other activities, that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. The complete Disclosures of Potential Conflicts of Interest submitted by authors are always provided with the online version of the article.

Copyright © 2012 by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc.
J Bone Joint Surg Am, 2012 May 16;94(10):e63 1-6. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.K.00837
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The aims of this study were to document our experience with acute forearm compartment syndrome and to determine the risk factors for the need for split-thickness skin-grafting and the development of complications after fasciotomy.


We identified from our trauma database all patients who underwent fasciotomy for an acute forearm compartment syndrome over a twenty-two-year period. Diagnosis was made with use of clinical signs in all patients, with compartment pressure monitoring used as a diagnostic adjunct in some patients. Outcome measures were the use of split-thickness skin grafts and the identification of complications following forearm fasciotomy.


There were ninety patients in the study cohort, with a mean age of thirty-three years (range, thirteen to eighty-one years) and a significant male predominance (eighty-two patients; p < 0.001). A fracture of the radius or ulna, or both, was seen in sixty-two patients (69%), with soft-tissue injuries as the causative factor in twenty-eight (31%). The median time to fasciotomy was twelve hours (range, two to seventy-two hours). Risk factors for requiring split-thickness skin-grafting were younger age and a crush injury (p < 0.05 for both). Risk factors for the development of complications were a delay in fasciotomy of more than six hours (p = 0.018) and preoperative motor symptoms, which approached significance (p = 0.068).


Forearm compartment syndrome requiring fasciotomy predominantly affects males and can occur following either a fracture or soft-tissue injury. Age is an important predictor of undergoing split-thickness skin-grafting for wound closure. Complications occur in a third of patients and are associated with an increasing time from injury to fasciotomy.

Level of Evidence: 

Prognostic Level IV. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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    Accreditation Statement
    These activities have been planned and implemented in accordance with the Essential Areas and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint sponsorship of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
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