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Are you in danger of developing compartment syndrome?

New York City construction workers are particularly vulnerable to a little-known injury called compartment syndrome. In most cases of compartment syndrome in construction workers, the injury is caused by getting trapped between a piece of equipment and a stationary object such as the wall of a building under construction.

Another possible avenue of injury includes being struck on the limbs by a heavy falling object.

Why is compartment syndrome dangerous?

To understand the danger, one must first understand what the condition is. Compartment syndrome is very painful and occurs when pressure inside of a person's muscles increases to a dangerous level. That pressure constricts the flow of blood to the area. Without a steady supply of oxygen-rich blood, a limb may wither and require amputation.

The condition occurs because fascia do not stretch. All of the pressure has no release and adversely affects the underlying nerves, capillaries and muscles within the compartment.

For example, compartment sydrome of the leg may occur in one of four separate compartments:

  • Anterior
  • Lateral
  • Superficial posterior
  • Deep posterior

It most commonly affects the front (anterior) compartment of the calf. A person's feet, hands, arms and buttocks are also vulnerable to compartment syndrome.

The treatment of acute compartment syndrome always involves surgical intervention. The surgeon can release pressure on the affected area by performing a fasciotomy, where the skin and fascia are incised and opened. In the most severe cases, the opening can't be closed because of the degree of swelling. The patient may even require a skin graft at some later point.

As you can imagine, an injury like this could prevent a construction worker from returning to work for an extended recovery period. It may be necessary to file for workers' compensation or even file a personal injury lawsuit in the New York civil court system.

Source: OrthoInfo, "Compartment Syndrome," accessed April 20, 2018

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