What are the existing diagnostic modalities and research models for acute compartment syndrome (ACS)?
In this systematic review of 51 studies, near-infrared spectroscopy and direct intracompartmental pressure measurement using a Stryker device were the most commonly used methods, but all modalities lacked a reliable threshold. Of the most commonly used models, cadaveric studies used saline infusions; most studies with human patients included injured patients with acquired ACS or at risk of developing ACS; in healthy human patients, tourniquets formed the most commonly used ACS model; and application of tourniquets and infusion of saline or albumin among animal studies.
Future studies on diagnostic modalities should include continuous assessment tools to better identify the earliest signs of ACS and thereby establish a reliable threshold.
Acute compartment syndrome (ACS) can cause catastrophic tissue damage leading to permanent muscle and nerve loss. Acute compartment syndrome is a clinical diagnosis, with intracompartmental pressure (ICP) used in equivocal cases. There are no reliable diagnostic methods. The clinical evaluation is impossible to standardize, and the threshold for ICP has been known to be unreliable; thus, guidelines for diagnosis can result in overtreatment or delayed diagnosis.
To present and review the advantages and disadvantages of each diagnostic modality and identify gaps that need to be addressed in the future and to review the most used and appropriate animal and human ACS models.
We included clinical studies and animal models investigating diagnostic modalities for ACS of the extremities. A MEDLINE and Web of Science search was performed. The protocol for the study was registered on PROSPERO (CRD42017079266). We assessed the quality of the clinical studies with Newcastle-Ottawa scale and reported level of evidence for each article.
Fifty-one articles were included in this study, reporting on 38 noninvasive and 35 invasive modalities. Near-infrared spectroscopy and direct ICP measurement using a Stryker device were the most common, respectively. Cadaveric studies used saline infusions to create an ACS model. Most studies with human participants included injured patients with acquired ACS or at risk of developing ACS. In healthy human participants, tourniquets formed the most commonly used ACS model. Application of tourniquets and infusion of saline or albumin were the most used ACS models among animal studies.
Conclusions and Relevance
This article reports on the most common as well as many new and modified diagnostic modalities, which can serve as inspiration for future investigations to develop more effective and efficient diagnostic techniques for ACS. Future studies on diagnostic modalities should include the development of tools for continuous assessment of ICP to better identify the earliest alterations suggestive of impending ACS. With the advent of such technologies, it may be possible to develop far less aggressive and more effective approaches for early detection of ACS.
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Mortensen SJ, Vora MM, Mohamadi A, et al. Diagnostic Modalities for Acute Compartment Syndrome of the Extremities: A Systematic Review. JAMA Surg. 2019;154(7):655–665. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2019.1050
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