BACKGROUND: It is well known that acute compartment syndrome is associated with fracture of the forearm, while involvement of soft tissue injury including musculotendinous injury remains unclear. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the soft tissue involvement, including musculotendinous ruptures, in acute compartment syndrome of the upper limb. METHODS: We retrospectively enrolled 16 patients who underwent surgical treatment for acute compartment syndrome of the upper extremity. The average age of the patients was 47 years (range, 14 to 79) and the mean follow-up period after the surgery was 15 months (range, 12 to 29). Complications included at least one presentation at the final follow up of sensory disturbances or motor disturbances. We examined the presence of musculotendinous injury mechanism of injury, presence of fracture, the performance of skin grafting, and complications. RESULTS: Mechanism of injury of "caught in a machine" was found in six cases. Three of these patients had musculotendinous ruptures and all muscle tears were revealed by intraoperative findings. No patients had muscle ruptures with other injury mechanisms. Seven out of 16 patients (44%) developed complications at final follow-up. Skin grafting was performed in six patients, and five of these patients developed complications. Only one of the nine patients without complications underwent skin grafting. CONCLUSIONS: In cases of high-energy injuries, the surgeon should suspect the presence of a musculotendinous injury prior to surgery.
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