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Compartment Syndrome Can Cause Damage to Nerves and Muscles or Lead to Amputation of an Arm or a Leg

by The Beasley Firm  |  September 21, 2011  |  

Compartment syndrome is a very serious complication that involves swelling and increased pressure in an arm, leg, or even the abdomen. If compartment syndrome is not diagnosed and treated right away, it can lead to permanent nerve damage, muscle damage, bowel injury or loss of a limb.

After any trauma, burn, crush injury, fracture, blood draw or surgery, there could be bleeding or swelling underneath the skin. The blood or fluid builds up and cannot be released because the closed skin will not allow it to escape. When that happens, the blood or fluid continues to accumulate under the skin and it causes pressure on the blood vessels, nerves and muscles. If there is too much swelling or pressure on the inside, it can cause a decrease in the amount of blood and oxygen the muscles receive and can cause death of the muscle. Many times, this is referred to as ischemia. In addition, if the nerves are squeezed or compressed for too long, it can lead to permanent nerve damage.

When someone who was injured develops compartment syndrome, is it negligence? No….it is not. Swelling and bleeding under the skin can happen after a traumatic injury or surgery. Compartment syndrome can develop in the absence of medical malpractice. What is negligent is that doctors and nurses know this can happen and should listen to their patient if they are complaining of increased pain, swelling or numbness after an injury, surgery, cast or bandage. Just think about the damage that can happen if there is still bleeding or swelling under the skin and there is nowhere for the fluid to go because the skin is intact and there is a cast or ace wrap on that is not allowing the fluid or increased pressure to escape.

An incident is considered as negligence or malpractice when the nurse, doctor, nurse practitioner or physician assistant does not realize a patient may have developed compartment syndrome and does nothing about it. If compartment syndrome is diagnosed and treated early enough with ice, elevation, re-casting, or a fasciotomy, the limb may be able to be saved from permanent nerve or muscle damage. If a patient is suffering from abdominal compartment syndrome after a surgery, re-opening the belly may prevent permanent damage to internal organs or the intestines. The development of compartment syndrome is not negligence. The failure to diagnose and properly treat compartment syndrome is negligence.

Here at the Beasley medical malpractice law firm, our experienced attorneys, doctors and nurses have not only diagnosed or treated patients with compartment syndrome while working in a hospital setting, we have also successfully represented clients that had a loss of a limb, nerve damage, muscle damage or bowel injury due to untreated compartment syndrome. If you or a family member has suffered due to compartment syndrome, please feel free to contact one of our experienced Philadelphia medical negligence lawyers, physicians or nurses for a strictly confidential, free, consultation.

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