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Compartment Syndrome


Compartment syndrome happens when swelling or bleeding increases pressure in and between muscles. This stops blood from flowing to the area and causes muscle and nerve damage. Compartment syndrome usually happens in an arm or leg. Symptoms start suddenly and get worse quickly. Without immediate treatment, damage may become severe and permanent.


Seek care immediately if:

  • Your pain or swelling does not go away or gets worse, even after you take medicine.
  • Your injured arm or leg turns blue or white or feels cold and numb.
  • Blood soaks through your bandage or cast.
  • Your wound is draining pus or smells bad.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have more swelling than you did before a cast, brace, or bandage was put on.
  • Your skin is itchy and swollen, or you have a rash.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Prevent compartment syndrome:

  • Elevate your arm or leg after an injury. Raise your arm or leg at the level of your heart as long as directed. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Do not raise your arm or leg higher than your heart. Prop it on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated.
  • Check for proper fit. Make sure a brace or bandage you get after an injury is not too tight. You should be able to fit 2 fingers between your skin and the brace or bandage.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Compartment Syndrome (Discharge Care)

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.