Kansas City Townsend Law Firm

Signs of Compartment Syndrome After a Car Accident

On Behalf of | Apr 12, 2018 | Car Accident

Many different injuries can result from car accidents. People tend to think about the common car accident injuries like broken bones or head injuries, but those aren’t the only injuries that a person might face if they are in a bad crash and have a medical emergency.

One injury that’s not necessarily uncommon is compartment syndrome. This condition impacts the muscles and can turn from exquisitely painful to life-threatening quickly. When you are involved in a car accident, you need to pay attention to how your muscles feel so that you might be able to spot a potential issue from a crush injury, and try to prevent permanent muscle damage, or any permanent damage.

What is Compartment Syndrome?

A compartment is a space beneath the fascia that contains muscles, blood vessels and nerves in the arms and legs. When there is bleeding or swelling within the compartment, there isn’t anywhere for it to go because the fascia doesn’t expand. It remains rigid since it is meant to keep these structures in place. As the compartment pressure builds, the blood supply to the nerves and vessels in the compartment decreases. This lack of blood flow causes a lack of blood supply and means that the muscles and nerves aren’t getting the oxygen and nutrients that they need.

There are two types of compartment syndrome. One is called acute compartment syndrome, and the other chronic compartment syndrome, and each have their own risk factors, causes, symptoms and treatments.

Acute compartment syndrome is caused most commonly from car accidents, crush injury, badly bruised muscles, fractured bones or if an area that had a lack of blood flow suddenly has new blood supply, or reperfusion. Maintaining blood flow, perfusion, is vital to keeping the body healthy and happy.

Chronic compartment syndrome is caused by exerting oneself too much, common causes being through exercise, biking, running, or other activities where you can push yourself too far through repetitive motions. It is also referred to as exertional compartment syndrome due to the nature of how the injury occurs. These can be more minor injuries, however you should always consult your healthcare professional for medical advice on how to proceed, or if you have chronic exertional compartment syndrome.

Acute compartment syndrome happens most commonly in the lower legs, but can also affect other parts of the leg, feet, arms, hands, abdomen (belly) and buttocks. Shin splints, and other injuries that can cause increased pressure in the muscle compartment can lead to needing a fasciotomy or surgical emergency procedures.

Severe pain is often associated with compartment syndrome, and often there needs to be something done beyond a simple physical examination to determine causes (vascular or other), or to determine if thrombosis is occurring, if there are stress fractures, soft tissue injury, or if there is renal injury that results in rhabdomyolysis, which can result in advanced compartment syndrome. Please seek medical attention for a proper diagnosis of compartment syndrome.

Symptoms of Compartment Syndrome

The primary symptom of compartment syndrome is extreme pain. This is much worse than what you would expect from only the injury. You might feel like the muscle is full or like your skin is tingling. The symptoms might worsen when you have to use the muscle. If the injury is allowed to progress, there is a chance that you will begin cramping and then feel numbness or change in sensation (paresthesias).

This is a sign that permanent injury has occurred from the increased pressure. If you suspect that you’re suffering from this condition, you should immediately head to the emergency room to have your arm or leg evaluated, and to have the doctors look for necrosis, splints, pulselessness, hematoma or other signs of acute compartment syndrome.

The affected limb will have severe pain, and the affected compartment will have increased pressure, where arterial pressure measurements are well beyond their normal levels. The doctors can measure that pressure by inserting a needle that measures the mmhg (pressure) of the muscle and affected area and compare it to the diastolic blood pressure and determine if there is elevated compartment pressure. The affected muscle could have other issues arise, such as contracture, where the muscle tightens or shortens beyond the normal range, and doesn’t allow for decompression of the tightened muscle group.

You can also suffer from ischemia by stopping the refilling of the capillaries. When blood flow to the capillary cannot fulfill the metabolic needs of the tissue ischemia can start.

Medical Treatment or Legal Help

You will need emergency treatment if you have compartment syndrome. In many cases, surgery is necessary to relieve the pressure within the compartment. Even if you do get prompt medical care, there is a chance that you will still suffer from long-lasting impacts on your body. There is the possibility of prolonged nerve damage and muscle deterioration that come from this condition being left untreated too long, or having an orthopedic (or orthopaedic) surgeon, someone who is part of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, correct bones that have become deformed from having increased pressure for too long. Amputation would even be an option if the injuries are too severe, or if the severe injuries go untreated for too long. X-rays of the broken bones, tibia, or affected limb or affected area may be needed.

On top of these long-lasting impacts, you also have to face the recovery from the surgery and the aftermath that comes along with rehabilitation.

You and your loved ones should not have to face these challenges alone if you were the victim of someone else’s negligence. Our injury law firm has been helping injury victims in the Kansas City metro for many years, and can offer you a free case evaluation, to review what the facts are and offer legal advice on how to proceed.

Call today, and stop fighting this battle alone.