It is not difficult to envision the body as being comprised of different “compartments,” with each area of the body separated from the rest by tissue known as fascia. These compartments are obvious upon observation, with the arms and legs being separate compartments from the chest. Having the body compartmentalized is often a positive, as it limits the potential for catastrophic and deadly damage being done to a person simply because one limb is compromised. But there are scenarios where compartmentalization works against the body.
When a significant injury to one compartment occurs, fluid and blood can rapidly build up in the area, either due to the body rushing blood to the area to aid in healing, or due to swelling caused by the injury. The body will attempt to leak this fluid into surrounding compartments, but tissue known as fascia limits the amount of fluid that can be dispersed this way. As fluid builds, pressure builds as well, and the pressure can restrict blood vessels. When blood is cut off to an organ, the organ begins to die.
When compartment syndrome occurs, the pressure can be alleviated, often through a procedure called a fasciotomy. A fasciotomy is a surgical technique that purposefully compromises the integrity of the fascia by using an incision to open additional space for fluid to flow through, relieving the pressure in the compartment. If this does not occur quickly enough, loss of a limb can occur, as can death.
Luckily compartment syndrome is not a difficult diagnosis, particularly as the injuries and diseases most likely to cause it are well-established in medical literature. Diagnosticians should pay particular attention to the possibility of compartment syndrome if an accident causes significant damage to a limb, or if a fracture occurs.
If you or someone you love has suffered due to failure to diagnose compartment syndrome, you are likely well aware of how devastating this disease can be. Please consult with an attorney about your case. A qualified lawyer can help you determine whether or not the diagnosis should have been made earlier, and if a better outcome might have occurred if the proper medical steps had been taken.