Review Article

Magnetic resonance imaging in exertional compartment syndrome of the forearm: Case-based pictorial review and approach to management

Bishum Rattan, Shalendra K. Misser
South African Journal of Radiology | Vol 22, No 1 | a1284 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajr.v22i1.1284 | © 2018 Bishum Rattan, Shalendra K. Misser | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 11 October 2017 | Published: 18 April 2018

About the author(s)

Bishum Rattan, Lake Smit and Partners Inc., Durban, South Africa
Shalendra K. Misser, Lake Smit and Partners Inc., Durban, South Africa; School of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


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Abstract

Exercise-related limb pain poses a management dilemma to the clinician. The term ‘chronic exertional compartment syndrome’ (CECS) (previously known as ‘anterior tibial syndrome’) refers to a condition characterised by exercise-induced pain in one or more muscle groups and is more commonly seen in the lower limbs. Much less has been reported about the upper limbs where the muscular compartments are variably noted to be involved. A high index of clinical suspicion should therefore be maintained to avoid missing the diagnosis. Although commonly noted in athletes, CECS can occur in any age group with any level of exercise activity. In addition, there is no age predilection and the syndrome may be bilateral. The exact prevalence is not known as many athletes modify their training methods, thus delaying or avoiding medical assistance and imaging. The pathophysiology of compartment syndrome is complex. In this review of the syndrome, we describe the cycle of intracellular events leading to CECS and the eventual destruction of muscle. There is considerable overlap with the many possible causes of limb pain. Even the most experienced clinicians experience some difficulty in making this diagnosis of CECS, but with increasing awareness of this entity and availability of good-quality magnetic resonance imaging to confirm the suspicion, upper limb CECS is being more commonly diagnosed and patients more timeously managed.


Keywords

chronic exertional compartment syndrome

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