The different types of treatment for compartment syndrome depends on whether the injury is chronic or acute. Acute compartment syndrome treatment constitutes a medical emergency and nearly always requires surgery. A person with the condition may be given an oxygen mask, but an operation to open the muscle and relieve pressure is important to prevent permanent damage. If the condition is chronic, compartment syndrome treatment usually begins conservatively, with physical therapy and painkilling medication. Sometimes this is not enough to solve the problem, however, and surgery is the only solution.
Compartment syndrome, which can be extremely painful, occurs when the pressure inside a muscle builds up to abnormal levels. This prevents blood from flowing through the muscle and can lead to nerve damage. If the condition is acute, which means it occurred suddenly, compartment syndrome treatment requires emergency care to prevent permanent damage. Chronic compartment syndrome treatment is not as urgent, although it’s still important to reduce pain.
If a person is suffering from acute compartment syndrome, treatment usually begins with an oxygen mask. This helps to increase the muscle’s oxygen supply, which reduces the chance of permanent damage to the muscle or nerves. A doctor may also set up a drip to provide extra fluid for the body. Chronic compartment syndrome is usually caused by an athlete who is overtraining; treatment often begins with a period of relative rest followed by an assessment to discover why the condition started.
As the condition is caused by a pressure buildup, compartment syndrome treatment focuses on relieving this pressure. To do so, an operation known as a fasciotomy is nearly always required if the disorder is acute. During this procedure, the skin and affected compartment of the muscle are cut open to relieve pressure and prevent further damage. If the surgeon finds an area of dead muscle, this is also removed. In order to prevent the pressure from returning, the wound is usually left open for a few days.
In the case of chronic compartment syndrome, surgery may not be needed immediately. Instead, conservative treatment is often attempted first. Alternatives can include rehabilitation through physical therapy and the use of anti inflammatory drugs. If the symptoms are thought to be caused by poor biomechanics, orthotics — i.e., shoe inserts that stop the foot arch from collapsing inward — may be prescribed. If conservative treatments fail to have the desired effect, surgery is sometimes attempted.