JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Survey of management of acute, traumatic compartment syndrome of the leg in Australia.

ANZ Journal of Surgery 2007 September
BACKGROUND: Acute compartment syndrome is a serious and not uncommon complication of limb trauma. The condition is a surgical emergency and is associated with significant morbidity if not diagnosed promptly and treated effectively. Despite the urgency of effective management to minimize the risk of adverse outcomes, there is currently little consensus in the published reports as to what constitutes best practice in the management of acute limb compartment syndrome.

METHODS: A structured survey was sent to all currently practising orthopaedic surgeons and accredited orthopaedic registrars in Australia to assess their current practice in the management of acute, traumatic compartment syndrome of the leg. Questions were related to key decision nodes in the management process, as identified in a literature review. These included identification of patients at high risk, diagnosis of the condition in alert and unconscious patients, optimal timeframe and technique for carrying out a fasciotomy and management of fasciotomy wounds.

RESULTS: A total of 264 valid responses were received, a response rate of 29% of all eligible respondents. The results indicated considerable variation in management of acute compartment syndrome of the leg, in particular in the utilization of compartment pressure measurement and the appropriate pressure threshold for fasciotomy. Of the 78% of respondents who regularly measured compartment pressure, 33% used an absolute pressure threshold, 28% used a differential pressure threshold and 39% took both into consideration.

CONCLUSIONS: There is variation in the management of acute, traumatic compartment syndrome of the leg in Australia. The development of evidence-based clinical practice guidelines may be beneficial.

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