Needle manometry is a tool to confirm suspected acute compartment syndrome (ACS). There is scarce evidence of normal pressure values of the lower extremities in children. The aim of this study is to assess the normal compartment pressures in non-injured lower extremities of children.
This prospective study included children up to the age of 16 years with lower extremity fractures that needed reduction. Between June 2009 and August 2015, 20 children were included. We used needle manometry to measure the pressures in the superficial (SPC), deep posterior (DPC) and in the anterior compartments (AC) on both the lower legs.
On the healthy leg, the mean compartment pressure was 15.15 mmHg in the AC (range 7-30 mmHg), 14.32 mmHg in the SPC (range 8-24 mmHg) and 13.00 mmHg in the DPC (range 4-21 mmHg). On the injured leg, the mean compartment pressure was 24.07 mmHg in the AC (range 5-40 mmHg), 17.21 mmHg in the SPC (range 7-29 mmHg) and 17.13 mmHg in the DPC (range 6-37 mmHg). We found a perfusion gradient (diastolic blood pressure-compartment pressure) < 30 mmHg in at least one compartment of the fractured and healthy leg in 13 patients. Five patients underwent fasciotomy for suspected ACS and their data was excluded for the injured leg.
We could show that children have higher normal compartment pressures than adults in the lower leg. They seem to be able to tolerate higher absolute compartment pressures and lower pressure gradients before ACS occurs. More studies are needed to make a final statement on tolerable compartment pressures in children.