Can secondary extremity compartment syndrome be diagnosed earlier?

Thomas J. Goaley, Amy D. Wyrzykowski*, Jana B.A. MacLeod, Kevin B. Wise, Christopher J. Dente, Jeffrey P. Salomone, Jeffrey M. Nicholas, Gary A. Vercruysse, Walter L. Ingram, Grace S. Rozycki, David V. Feliciano

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: In 2002, our institution published a 5-year retrospective review of 10 patients who developed secondary extremity compartment syndrome (SECS) with a mortality rate of 70%. Since then, we have aggressively screened for the development of SECS in high-risk patients. We postulate that awareness of SECS and vigilant monitoring for its development would result in earlier diagnosis and treatment and improved outcome. Methods: Retrospective review of all patients at a level I trauma center developing SECS from 2002 to 2006. Data collected included demographics, mechanism of injury, injury complex, blood transfused prior to development of SECS, affected extremities, creatinine, creatine phosphokinase, management, and outcome. Results: Seventeen of 11,468 trauma patients (.148%) developed SECS. Mean admission hematocrit was 31.7 ± 8.9, mean admission base deficit was -13.3, mean worst base deficit was -17.8, and average Injury Severity Score was 36.3 ± 16.6. Patients received 20.9 ± 11.0 units of blood and 24.6 ± 14 L of crystalloid prior to the development of SECS. Average time from admission to diagnosis of the SECS was 32.6 hours. Acute renal failure developed in 6 (35%) patients; 4 required dialysis, and 3 died. The number of affected extremities ranged from 1 to 4. Of the 46 affected extremities, 39 were salvaged and 7 required amputation. Mortality was 35.3%. Conclusions: SECS is an uncommon, but devastating complication in severely injured patients with hypotension undergoing massive transfusion, and developing systemic inflammatory response syndrome. Vigilance increases detection. While the overall mortality was reduced by half, patients requiring dialysis have a 75% mortality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)724-727
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican Journal of Surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Acute extremity compartment syndrome
  • Fasciotomy
  • Muscle necrosis
  • Resuscitation complications
  • Trauma


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