Forearm compartment syndrome in the newborn: Report of 24 cases

Raymond Ragland, Didier Moukoko, Marybeth Ezaki, Peter R. Carter, Janith Mills

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Purpose: Isolated cases of ischemia, compartment syndrome, or Volkmann's ischemic contracture in the forearm of the newborn infant have been reported in the past. The purpose of this study is to review a large series of patients with neonatal forearm compartment syndrome and to report the important clinical features. Methods: A search of medical records from 1980 to 2000 identified 24 children with evidence of ischemia of the forearm at the time of birth. Records and images were reviewed for prenatal and birth history, maternal factors, medical conditions, pattern of involvement, treatment, and outcomes. Patients were grouped according to the extent of initial soft-tissue involvement. Results: All patients presented with a sentinel forearm skin lesion. Patterns of involvement ranged from mild skin and subcutaneous lesions to dorsal and volar compartment syndrome with or without distal tissue loss. Early treatment intervention was limited to a single case in which the diagnosis of compartment syndrome was made and an emergency fasciotomy was performed with a good outcome. In other cases tissue loss, compressive neuropathy, muscle loss, and late skeletal changes were responsible for impaired function. Distal bone growth abnormality was common. Conclusions: Forearm compartment syndrome in the newborn is not as uncommon as previously thought. The skin lesion was the common, salient, initial diagnostic finding. Early diagnosis and appropriate referral led to the salvage of a functional limb in 1 of the patients in this series. The severity of the initial insult correlated with the degree of impairment in growth and function. The delayed diagnosis and treatment of an evolving compartment syndrome may compromise further final function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)997-1003
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Hand Surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2005


  • Compartment syndrome
  • Forearm
  • Newborn
  • Skin lesion
  • Volkmann's ischemic contracture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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