by EBSCO Medical Review Board
(ACS; Compartment Syndrome, Acute; Volkmann’s Ischemia)


Acute compartment syndrome (ACS) is bleeding or swelling in an enclosed bundle (compartment) of muscles. It can block blood flow and lead to tissue death. ACS needs care right away.

Compartment Syndrome in Lower Leg
Compartment Syndrome
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Some causes are:

  • A broken bone or crush injury (most common)
  • A badly bruised muscle
  • Burns
  • Prior surgery to repair a damaged or blocked blood vessel
  • Problems that block blood flow to the limbs, such as a tight cast or bandage

Risk Factors

This problem is more common in people who are 35 and younger. It is also more common in people who have had a tibial shaft fracture.


ACS may cause:

  • Severe pain, especially with movement
  • Tingling or burning
  • A muscle that feels tight or full
  • Numbness or problems moving


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

Blood tests will be done.

Images may be taken. This can be done with x-rays.

The pressure inside the compartment will be measured. This can be done with:

  • Slit catheter
  • Tonometer
  • Near-infrared spectroscopy


ACS can be deadly. Treatment is needed right away to ease pressure. This is done with a fasciotomy. This surgery makes a cut in the tissue to ease swelling and pressure in the compartment.


There are no known guidelines to prevent this health problem.


National Institutes of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases 

Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons 


Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation 

Canadian Physiotherapy Association 


Acute compartment syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed February 15, 2021.

Compartment syndrome. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: Accessed February 15, 2021.

Via AG, Oliva F, et al. Acute compartment syndrome. Muscles Ligaments Tendons J. 2015 Jan-Mar;5(1):18-22.

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