Acute Compartment Syndrome in Children and Teenagers With Tibial Shaft Fractures: Incidence and Multivariable Risk Factors : Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma

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Original Article

Acute Compartment Syndrome in Children and Teenagers With Tibial Shaft Fractures

Incidence and Multivariable Risk Factors

Shore, Benjamin J. MD, FRCSC*; Glotzbecker, Michael P. MD*; Zurakowski, David PhD; Gelbard, Estee PA-C*; Hedequist, Daniel J. MD*; Matheney, Travis H. MD*

Author Information
Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma 27(11):p 616-621, November 2013. | DOI: 10.1097/BOT.0b013e31828f949c



To identify the incidence of acute compartment syndrome (ACS) in children and teenagers with tibial shaft fractures and report associated risk factors.


Retrospective Case Control.


Level 1 pediatric trauma hospital.


Two hundred sixteen tibial shaft fractures in 212 patients (160 males and 52 females; median age, 13 years) over a 5-year period were reviewed.


One hundred thirty-two (61%) fractures were treated with closed reduction and casting, 36 with external fixation, 27 with locked intramedullary nails, and 21 with flexible intramedullary nails.

Main Outcome Measures: 

ACS was diagnosed clinically or by intracompartment pressure. Multivariable logistic regression analysis tested age, gender, weight, physeal status, mechanism of injury, time to surgery, fracture type, and treatment intervention as possible risk factors for development of ACS.


There were 25 (11.6%) cases of ACS. Multivariable predictors of ACS included age of 14 years and older (22/96 = 23% vs. 3/120 = 3%, P < 0.001) and motor vehicle accident (MVA) (13/57 = 23% vs. 12/159 = 8%, P < 0.001). Incidence of ACS was 48% among patients aged 14 years and older, who sustained MVA (12/25). Gender, physeal status, time to surgery, and surgical fixation were not predictive of ACS.


This is the largest study in children and teenagers reporting the incidence of ACS from tibial shaft fractures. The incidence of 11.6% is higher than previously reported and much higher in patients older than14 years of age and involved in an MVA. Surgeons should be especially aware and suspicious of this diagnosis in teenagers with tibial shaft fractures.

Level of Evidence: 

Prognostic Level II. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

© 2013 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins

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