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Compartment Syndrome in Children


Compartment syndrome is a condition that causes muscle and nerve damage. Swelling or bleeding increases pressure in and between muscles. This stops blood from flowing to the area. 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 child has increased pain that does not go away or gets worse, even after he or she takes medicine.
  • Your child tells you that the injured arm or leg feels numb.
  • Your child's injured arm or leg turns blue or white or feels cold.
  • Blood soaks through your child's bandage or cast.
  • Your child's wound drains pus or smells bad.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child's skin is itchy, swollen, or has a rash.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.


  • Pain medicine may be given. You may need a doctor's order for this medicine. Ask how much medicine is safe to give your child and how often to give it. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you give your child this medicine.
  • Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age. Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Contact your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him or her if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

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

Help your child prevent compartment syndrome:

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