What You Need To Know About Compartment Syndrome after a Car Accident

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Victims who develop compartment syndrome after a car accident run the risk of requiring an amputation. Fortunately, it is treatable through surgery or non-invasive remedies.

What is compartment syndrome?

Compartment syndrome is a painful condition that results from increased pressure within your muscles. This increased pressure can lead to severe muscle or nerve damage.

To explain why compartment syndrome causes so much pain, we need to delve into anatomy quickly. Thick layers of tissue called fascia separate muscles in your arms and legs from each other. Inside these fasciae are small spaces known as compartments.

Since fasciae do not expand, when these compartments begin to swell up, it often leads to increased pressure in the area. This can prevent blood from flowing to that area of your body.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), compartment syndrome is most common in the front of the lower leg; however, it may also occur in your hand, foot, thigh, arm, or buttocks.

What are the causes of compartment syndrome?

According to AAOS, two different types of compartment syndrome exist: acute or chronic. Acute and chronic compartment syndromes have different causes, discussed below:

Acute Compartment Syndrome

Acute compartment syndrome usually develops over a few hours and is often the result of a serious injury or bone fracture. It can result from any of the following:

  • Car crashes (e.g., can occur when the leg or arm is crushed or when a bone fractures)
  • Burns
  • Bandaging that is too tight and constricts blood flow
  • Surgery to blood vessels in the arm or leg
  • A blood clot

Acute compartment syndrome is a serious condition that requires emergency surgery. If a doctor does not perform surgery within hours, permanent muscle damage can occur.

Causes of Chronic Compartment Syndrome

Chronic compartment syndrome typically develops over several days or weeks. It is usually the result of intense exercises that require repetitive motions, such as running, biking, or swimming.

This injury occurs most often in your lower leg.

Chronic compartment syndrome is usually not dangerous; people suffering from chronic compartment syndrome can typically heal by discontinuing the exercise that caused the condition for a short period of time.

What are the symptoms of compartment syndrome?

If you suffer from compartment syndrome, you are likely to experience severe pain when the muscle within the compartment stretches.

Often, this pain will continue even with the help of pain medication.

You may experience:

  • Numbness or paralysis
  • Tingling or burning sensation
  • Visible bulges in your muscles (chronic compartment syndrome)
  • Decreased sensation
  • Severe pain that continues to get worse

Because the symptoms of chronic compartment syndrome are similar to other conditions such as tendonitis or a stress fracture, your doctor may press on your tendons or order an X-ray to rule out any other causes.

To make a diagnosis for acute compartment syndrome, doctors will often insert a needle in the strained area of your body to measure the pressure inside the body compartment.

What damages can compartment syndrome cause?

Aside from the severe pain you may suffer, you may sustain other damages.  

In many cases, surgery is required to treat the symptoms. This can lead to:

  • Highly expensive hospital bills
  • Days or weeks of being unable to work, which can cause you to miss much-needed paychecks
  • A lengthy recovery time, which may prevent you from plans, trips, or activities you had previously planned
  • Severe mental or emotional trauma as the result of your accident

Can I recover compensation for my compartment syndrome?

If you developed compartment syndrome after being involved in an accident caused by another person’s negligence, you may be eligible to recover compensation.

To recover compensation, you must be able to prove that:

  • Your compartment syndrome is the result of the accident
  • The accident was the result of the other driver’s negligence

To do so, you need to gather evidence, such as:

  • Your medical records
  • Photos from the accident
  • Photos of your injuries
  • The accident report

An attorney can help. Seattle-based personal injury lawyer Max Meyers has helped individuals in Washington who were wrongfully harmed receive compensation for more than 15 years. And he can help you too.

For help recovering the compensation you need and deserve, give the legal team at Max Meyers Law PLLC a call.

Contact Max today: 425-399-7000

Max Meyers
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Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.