Home / Conditions Treated / Hand / Hand Compartment Syndrome

Hand Anatomy

The wrist is a bio-mechanically complex joint allowing the wrist to move in extension (up), flexion (down), radial deviation (towards the thumb), ulnar deviation (towards the small finger) and minimal degrees of rotation. view 

Hand Contusion

Trauma is the term used to describe injury. Trauma is classified by its severity depending on the amount of force used to cause the injury. view 

Hand Fractures

A fracture is a break in the bone. Fractures in the hand are some of the most frequent in the upper extremity. view 

Hand Dislocations

Dislocations of the hand are injuries frequently associated with high energy trauma like a fall from a height, a motor vehicle collision or a sporting event. view 

Hand Open Wounds

Open wounds at the hand imply the disruption of the skin with exposure of deeper structures. view 

Hand Tendon Injuries

Tendons are the continuation of muscles which transmit the force of muscles to the bone it attaches to around a joint to generate motion. view

Nerve and Vessel Injury

Nerves are cables that transmit impulses from the brain and spinal cord that give specific orders to the various body parts. view

Hand Compartment Syndrome

Compartment syndrome in all extremities is an orthopedic emergency. The hand muscles are covered and divided by groups into compartments by a well defined, unyielding envelope called the deep fascia. view

Hand Amputations

An amputation is the severing of a body part. Amputations are classified as partial and complete and if the amputation was a clean cut, a crushing amputation or an avulsion amputation where the amputated limb is pulled right off of the body. view

Hand Arthritis

Joint arthritis occurs when the protective cartilage layer wears away. The joint then becomes more painful and loses motion. view

Hand Infections

Infections to the hand are common occurrences because our need to use our hands for all activities. view

Hand Mass/Tumors

The most frequent swelling or masses found at the hand and wrist level are ganglion cysts. view



Compartment syndrome in all extremities is an orthopedic emergency. The hand muscles are covered and divided by groups into compartments by a well defined, unyielding envelope called the deep fascia. Hand compartment syndrome can occur as a result of a major crush injury, burn or injection injury to the hand causing the pressure within the compartments to rise above levels, sufficient to interrupt the blood supply to the tissues within the compartment. This can also occur after a limb has loss blood supply and the flow is re-established like in an arterial injury and repair, prolonged use of tourniquets and replantation of an extremity. When this occurs, the muscles and nerves within the compartment are at risk of dying with little or no chance of recovery. A fracture may or may not accompany a hand compartment syndrome but it is most likely to occur without a wound present which would indirectly decompress the hand compartments. Patients complain of increasing pain that is out of proportion to the injury and continues to increase requiring increase demand for pain medication which is dangerous since it does not address the problem. Other symptoms include numbness, tingling, or no symptoms at all if the compartment syndrome has gone too long and the nerves protective functions have been suppressed. Tissue death then follows. Signs of compartment syndrome include a tense hand, the patient may have pain with stretching of the fingers which affect the muscles of the forearm or there may be a loss of sensation in the hand with a cool sensation of the skin. Rarely, loss of pulses in the wrist ending in loss of function of the hand. Because the signs and symptoms can be variable, physicians must have a high index of suspicion with the patient recognizing that more pain medication is not the answer. This is why increasing pain after an injury requires direct clinical evaluation.


If a compartment syndrome is diagnosed, it must be treated promptly, considering 6 hours as a critical time limit with which treatment must be instituted. The treatment consists of a trip to the operating room where the fascia that surrounds and separates each involved compartment must be surgically released. This procedure relieves the pressure within the compartment and allows the muscles and nerves within the compartment to receive their required blood supply. The surgical wounds are often not sutured back immediately to allow for the skin and soft tissue to accommodate any swelling that has occurred during the course of the surgery. The surgical wounds are then sutured back at a later a date. If they cannot be sutured back because of skin tightness, the use of a vacuum-assisted wound closure device may be used. Skin grafts may sometimes be needed to ultimately close the surgical wounds.