Early diagnosis of compartment syndrome following tibial fractures using Intra-Compartmental Pressure Monitoring, near infra-red spectroscopy and plasma ischemic markers

Fractures of the main bone in the lower leg, known as the tibia, cause local bleeding, and tissue swelling within the compartments of the leg. In some patients, pressure within the compartments rises sufficiently high to prevent blood flow and cuts of the oxygen supply to intracompartmental muscles, nerves and other tissues. This condition is known as acute compartment syndrome. It is a surgical emergency and requires immediate identification and surgical treatment to save the function and viability of the lower leg. Delay in diagnosing this condition exposes the patient to increased risk of local muscle loss and a wide range of severe complications which requires multiple surgical procedures, prolonged hospitalization and even amputation of the affected limb. At the present time, diagnosis of acute compartment syndrome is mainly based on the clinical observation which is not always reliable and early. Measurement of intra-compartmental pressure can help to confirm the diagnosis but requires an invasive procedure which has some drawbacks. It is believed that direct monitoring of muscle oxygenation may provide early and precise diagnosis of this condition. Near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) is a noninvasive and continuous method for monitoring tissue oxygenation. Babak Shadgan, a sport medicine researcher, is studying whether careful monitoring of lower leg muscle oxygenation in fractured leg patients who are in a higher risk of acute compartment syndrome may allow for an early diagnosis of this critical condition. If effective, this new method would improve speed and accuracy of diagnosis, leading to improved care for patients and substantial health care cost-savings.