Intracompartmental pressure before and after fasciotomy in runners with chronic deep posterior compartment syndrome.

Biedert RM, Marti B. Int J Sports Med 1997 Jul;18(5):381-6.

Exercise induced pain in the posterior part of the leg is common among runners; the underlying reason for these complaints may be very different. The purpose of the present, controlled study was therefore 1. to confirm a clinically diagnosed deep posterior compartment syndrome by using intramuscular pressure measurements and 2. to evaluate the effect of a surgical release on clinical signs and intracompartment pressure values. Fifteen symptomatic runners with the clinical suspicion of a chronic deep posterior compartment syndrome and nine healthy recreational runners as controls were investigated. Intramuscular pressure was measured both at rest and up to two minutes post-exercise, using a pressure-monitor with a transducer. In symptomatic runners, the average pressure was preoperatively 5.6 mmHg (95%-confidence-interval [CI]: 3.4-7.6) at rest, rising to 18.5 mmHg (CI: 15.4-21.8) post-exercise. Corresponding values in healthy control runners were 5.1 mmHg (CI: 1.9-8.3) at rest, with a decrease induced by exercise to 2.8 mmHg (CI: -0.5-6.1). After fasciotomy of the deep posterior compartment in all fifteen symptomatic runners, average pressure values fell to 2.2 mmHg (CI: 1.0-3.4) at rest, and were further reduced after (now pain-free) exercise to 1.6 mmHg (CI: 0.6-2.6). The decrease between pre-operative and post-operative values was statistically highly significant (p < 0.0001 for values after running, p < 0.005 for values at rest). In conclusion, intracompartment pressure measurement is a useful technique to confirm the clinical diagnosis of deep posterior compartment syndrome prior to recommending surgery. Hereby, an exercise-induced rise in pressure of at least 10 mmHg, corresponding to a two- to threefold increase of values measured at rest, may be a more important diagnostic criterion than absolute levels of pressure measured before or after running.