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Acute Exertional Compartment Syndrome with Rhabdomyolysis: Case Report and Review of Literature

Brandon McKinney, Christopher Gaunder, Ross Schumer

Department of Orthopedic Surgery, San Antonio Military Medical Center (SAMMC), San Antonio, TX, USA

Am J Case Rep 2018; 19:145-149

DOI: 10.12659/AJCR.907304

Available online:

Published: 2018-02-08


BACKGROUND: Acute exertional compartment syndrome (AECS) is a rare cause of leg pain often associated with a delay in diagnosis and potentially leading to irreversible muscle and nerve damage.
CASE REPORT: We present the case of a previously healthy, high-level athlete who presented with the acute onset of unilateral anterior leg pain and foot drop the day after a strenuous workout. He was diagnosed with compartment syndrome and rhabdomyolysis. His management included emergent fluid resuscitation, fasciotomies, debridement of necrotic muscle from his anterior compartment, and delayed primary closure. After six months of intensive outpatient physical therapy, including the use of blood flow restriction treatments, the patient returned to sports and received a NCAA Division I Football scholarship.
CONCLUSIONS: We describe the details of this patient’s case and review the literature related to acute exertional compartment syndrome. The occurrence of acute compartment syndrome in the absence of trauma or fracture, though rare, can have devastating consequences following delays in treatment. AECS requires prompt diagnosis and surgical intervention to prevent these consequences. Diagnosis of atraumatic cases can be difficult, which is why awareness is equally as important as history and physical examination. While diagnosis is primarily clinical, it can be supported with direct intra-compartmental pressure measurements and maintaining a high index of suspicion in acute presentations of exertional limb pain.

Keywords: Anterior Compartment Syndrome, Athletic Injuries, Compartment Syndromes, Leg Injuries, Necrosis



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