Article Text

Dynamic pressure testing for chronic exertional compartment syndrome in the UK military population
  1. Shreshth Dharm-Datta1,
  2. D F Minden2,
  3. P A Rosell3,
  4. P F Hill3,
  5. A Mistlin1 and
  6. J Etherington1
  1. 1Medical Division, Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre (DMRC) Headley Court, UK
  2. 2Former Assistant Director of Defence Rehabilitation, DMRC Headley Court, UK
  3. 3Department of Orthopaedics, MDHU Frimley Park, Surrey, UK
  1. Correspondence to Sqn Ldr Shreshth Dharm-Datta, Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre, Headley Court, Epsom, Surrey KT18 6JW, UK; shreshth{at}


Objectives Chronic exertional compartment syndrome is one of the main causes of exertional leg pain. Diagnosis is based on the history and intracompartmental muscle pressure testing during exercise prior to consideration of fasciotomy for treatment. We present the data gathered at Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre Headley Court during the first year of a revised protocol on dynamic pressure testing from May 2007.

Methods The exercise protocol involved exercising patients using a representative military task: the Combat Fitness Test with a 15 kg Bergen on a treadmill, set at 6.5 km/h with zero incline up to 15 min and if completed, a further 5 min at 7.5 km/h. Subjects informed us when the exertional leg pain was 7/10 on a visual analogue scale and were instructed to carry on till failure (pain 10/10) or till the test finished. Mean pressure during this time period (7/10 to 10/10) was calculated by computer.

Results Over 1 year, we performed 151 intracompartmental pressure studies in 76 patients. 120 were successful in 68 patients, with 31 technical failures. All studies were performed in the anterior or deep posterior muscle compartments as these were the symptomatic compartments; no patients had symptoms in the lateral or superficial posterior compartments and these were not tested. There was only one complication with a posterior tibial artery puncture. In 119 compartment studies, the mean pressure was 97.8 mm Hg (SD 31.7). These data are normally distributed (Shapiro Wilk test, W=0.98 p=0.125).

Conclusions Our data based on this exercise protocol are comparable with the few studies that record dynamic pressure during running-based exercise. There is no accepted diagnostic pressure or exercise protocol. Due to the uncertainty of diagnostic criteria, it is necessary to perform a study measuring dynamic pressures in normal asymptomatic subjects.

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