My 23-year old son had a bad stick injury playing ice hockey. There was obvious bleeding under the skin and swelling in his thigh. It was diagnosed as a compartment syndrome. The doctors did emergency surgery without even taking an X-ray. How could they tell it was that serious without any testing?
A well-trained physician will recognize signs and symptoms of anterior compartment syndrome (ACS), which is a true medical emergency. Most doctors say that the exam is still the best way to make the diagnosis of this condition. The classic signs of ACS are called the seven P's and include:
  • More pain than expected for the injury
  • Area is very tense when touched or palpated
  • Pain increases when the part is moved passively
  • There is numbness (paresthesia) of the skin over the injured area
  • Paralysis occurs when the nerves or muscles are without blood supply
  • The pulses below the injury are still normal
  • The skin is discolored or loses color (pallor) Fast response with early treatment is the key to a good result. Waiting too long can result in irreversible damage. Your son is lucky to have been seen by a physician who recognized the signs and didn't wait for things to get worse.