Diagnosing Acute Compartment Syndrome – where have we got to?

Tristan E McMillan, William Timothy Gardner* (Corresponding Author), Andrew H Schmidt, Alan J Johnstone

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)
9 Downloads (Pure)


Acute compartment syndrome is a condition whereby tissue ischaemia occurs due to increased pressure in a closed myofascial compartment. It is a surgical emergency, with rapid recognition and treatment—the keys to good outcomes.

The available literature on diagnostic aids was reviewed by one of the senior authors 15 years ago. Now, we have further reviewed the literature, to aim to ascertain what progress has been made.

In this review, we present the evidence around a variety of available diagnostic options when investigating a potential case of acute compartment syndrome, including those looking at pressure changes, localised oxygenation, perfusion, metabolic changes and available blood serum biomarkers.

A significant amount of work has been put into developing modalities of diagnosis for acute compartment syndrome in the last 15 years. There is a lot of promising outcomes being reported; however, there is yet to be any conclusive evidence to suggest that they should be used over intracompartmental pressure measurement, which remains the gold standard. However, clinicians should be cognizant that compartment pressure monitoring lacks diagnostic specificity, and could lead to unnecessary fasciotomy when used as the sole criterion for diagnosis. Therefore, pressure monitoring is ideally used in situations where clinical suspicion is raised.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2429-2435
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Orthopaedics
Issue number11
Early online date29 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019

Bibliographical note

Open Access via the Springer Compact Agreement


  • Compartment syndrome
  • Ischaemia
  • Trauma
  • Investigation
  • Diagnosis


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