Acute limb compartment syndrome in the lower leg following trauma: assessment in the intensive care unit
Intended for healthcare professionals
CPD Previous    

Acute limb compartment syndrome in the lower leg following trauma: assessment in the intensive care unit

Emma Limbert Staff nurse, Intensive Care Unit, Hull Royal Infirmary, Hull, England
Julie Santy-Tomlinson Senior lecturer, Division of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, University of Manchester, Manchester, England

Acute limb compartment syndrome (ALCS) is a serious complication of traumatic injury. Although ALCS can occur in any limb, it most commonly occurs following injury to the lower leg, particularly in fractures of the tibia. Practitioners should recognise and treat ALCS as early as possible to prevent the development of further, potentially serious, complications. Most of the literature recommends that patients at risk of ALCS should be carefully monitored, with a focus on pain as the main symptom. However, patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) who are unconscious or sedated may be unable or unreliable in reporting pain, therefore it is necessary to consider alternative assessments for ALCS. This article provides an overview of the evidence and guidelines in relation to ALCS in the lower leg and how to undertake an effective assessment for the condition in patients in the ICU. This will enable practitioners to make evidence-based clinical decisions to improve practice and patient safety.

Nursing Standard. 31, 34, 61-71. doi: 10.7748/ns.2017.e10708


Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software

Conflict of interest

None declared

Received: 04 October 2016

Accepted: 14 February 2017

Want to read more?

Already subscribed? Log in


Unlock full access to RCNi Plus today

Save over 50% on your first 3 months

Your subscription package includes:
  • Unlimited online access to all 10 RCNi Journals and their archives
  • Customisable dashboard featuring 200+ topics
  • RCNi Learning featuring 180+ RCN accredited learning modules
  • RCNi Portfolio to build evidence for revalidation
  • Personalised newsletters tailored to your interests
RCN student member? Try Nursing Standard Student

Alternatively, you can purchase access to this article for the next seven days. Buy now