Compartment syndrome can often be incorrectly diagnosed as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
If a doctor fails to provide a correct diagnosis and proper treatment of compartment syndrome, the condition can deteriorate with further complications, which can leave the patient suffering with permanent nerve injury and loss of muscle function.
While a bone fracture of the arm or leg is probably the most common injury that can lead to compartment syndrome, the condition can also develop following an injury if medicines are being taken to treat or prevent blood from clotting.
Delayed diagnosis or treatment...
If you or a loved one have suffered injuries or permanent impairment caused by a delayed diagnosis and / or treatment of compartment syndrome, it is entirely natural to question why it was allowed to happen and find out what went wrong.
The answers to why there was a failure to properly treat the condition may not be straightforward and almost always needs specialist legal skills to determine liability and to hold those individuals to account.
If you believe that you have not received appropriate care, which may have caused unnecessary pain or left you suffering an avoidable injury you may have a clinical negligence claim.
Our dedicated clinical negligence team at Your Legal Friend are experienced in successfully resolving many different types and complex cases.
We can help you find out if :
Compartment Syndrome occurs when the nerves and blood vessels are compressed within a ‘muscle compartment’ and the increased pressure leads to a restricted blood flow.
This means the condition can occur in the hand, forearm, upper arm, buttocks, leg, foot and the abdomen although most commonly the syndrome occurs in the arm or leg.
Compartment Syndrome can also be caused by:
There are also two main types of compartment syndrome –
Acute compartment syndrome - following a severe injury, such as a car crash, the trauma causes an extreme rise of pressure in the compartment, resulting in insufficient blood supply to muscles and nerves. Emergency surgery will be needed as the lack of blood supply can lead to permanent muscle and nerve damage, and the loss of limb function.
Chronic compartment syndrome - is an exercise-induced condition in which muscle pressure rises to extreme levels during exercise, reducing blood flow and depriving oxygen to the muscles.
The most typical injury that can lead to compartment syndrome is a fracture of the arm or leg. Fortunately, the condition does not occur after every injury to an arm or leg but you are at a greater risk if your bone is broken:
The risk can increase even further if an operation is needed to fix the broken bone or an infection develops in the affected limb.
Other causes include:
Pain – is the main symptom, which usually occurs even at rest and may also intensify during movement.
While pain is likely to be felt after any injury, in compartment syndrome the pain is:
Other symptoms in the affected limb may include:
A correct diagnosis can present a difficulty in each case as individual clinical symptoms, which are known to be indicators of compartment syndrome, can be both unresponsive and unreliable.
Symptoms such as paralysis, which provide a definite indication, often arrive when the condition has progressed to a late stage when surgery will not lead to a full recovery.
Your doctor may suspect the condition if you have had a recent injury to one of your limbs and present the typical symptoms.
Compartment Pressure Monitoring - A specialist may also be needed to measure the pressure within the affected compartment using a special needle or an MRI scan.
The aim of the treatment is to relieve the pressure within the compartment surrounding the muscles. An operation called a ‘fasciotomy’ opens up the skin of the compartment and pressure is relieved.
The incision is usually left open to prevent the pressure building up again and closed using stitches some days later or left to heal by itself.
Risks of delayed diagnosis/treatment
It is crucial that prompt diagnosis and treatment takes place as early as possible. Permanent nerve injury and loss of muscle function may occur after only 12-24 hours of acute compression when the injured person is unconscious or heavily sedated, and cannot complain of pain.
Compensation claims for clinical negligence are more likely to succeed in compartment syndrome cases involving:
The consequences of a late diagnosis or failure to correctly treat compartment syndrome can be life-threatening and can leave a patient with a permanent impairment or severe disability.
As experienced clinical negligence specialists, our task is to ensure:
Your Legal Friend is committed to ensuring victims of clinical negligence obtain answers for what went wrong and receive the compensation to cover their needs, such as: