Alternative Methods of Diagnosis
In the absence of reliable evidence, it is the opinion of the work group that there are no reported diagnostic modalities, other than direct pressure monitoring or clinical exam findings, that provide useful information to guide decision making when considering fasciotomy for acute compartment syndrome.
Management of Acute Compartment Syndrome
This guideline was produced in collaboration with METRC, with funding provided by the US Department of Defense. Endorsed by: ACS, AOFAS, and SOMOS


Only one low quality study (Dickson, 2003) meeting the inclusion criteria for this CPG was found that addressed any diagnostic modalities other than clinical or pressure testing. This study showed that in patients with a clinical diagnosis suggesting or confirming compartment syndrome, a “hardness ratio” of 2 or more had a weak association to the reference standard of a clinical diagnosis of ACS (as determined by the attending physician’s clinical assessment). Hardness measurements were made using an investigational device consisting of a force plate that was applied to the skin. The hardness of the compartment with the highest compartment pressure was comparted to the final clinical assessment, and diagnostic parameters calculated. In particular, this diagnostic method had low specificity, resulting in a significant number of false positive diagnoses, leading the authors not to recommend this as a useful diagnostic modality.

Many other examples of alternative diagnostic modalities have been considered to be of potential value for the diagnosis of ACS, including near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), electromyography (EMG), and pH testing. However, at the time of publication of this CPG, these modalities were not supported by any published literature meeting the inclusion criteria for this review. It is the opinion of the panel that this is an area of significant research with potential clinical impact, and readers should continue to review the published literature as new data regarding new diagnostic modalities for ACS become available.


Misdiagnosis could lead irreversible intracompartmental damage.


Studies examining the sensitivity and specificity of various diagnostic modalities (e.g. NIRS, Imaging, NCS, etc.) as compared to an appropriate reference standard (e.g. validated and/or comprehensive clinical and pressure diagnosis) in a population of patients suspected of ACS may have significant impact on clinicians’ ability to accurately diagnose acute compartment syndrome in a timely fashion.


The Future of OrthoGuidelines


The OrthoGuidelines Process