Venous obstruction in healthy limbs: a model for chronic compartment syndrome?

DB Birtles, Mark Rayson, A Casey, David Jones, DJ Newham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Citations (Scopus)


PURPOSE: Chronic exertional compartment syndrome (CECS) in the anterior tibial (AT) compartment is generally believed to be the result of reduced venous blood flow caused by restrictive compartments and increased intramuscular pressures. If this is so, then restricting venous flow in the muscles of healthy subjects during exercise should mimic CECS. METHODS: This hypothesis was tested in 10 control subjects (aged 19-41 yr, five males) with and without external venous occlusion induced by a sphygmomanometer cuff fitted just below the knee and inflated to 80 mm Hg. Twenty CECS patients (20-39 yr, 16 males) were studied without external occlusion. Subjects performed intermittent, isometric maximal voluntary contractions (MVC) of the AT for 20 min (1.6-s contractions, 0.5 duty cycle). MVC, tetanic force (2 s at 50 Hz), muscle thickness (ultrasound imaging), and pain were measured during exercise and 10 min of recovery. RESULTS: Venous occlusion in the controls induced greater pain, fatigue, and increase in muscle thickness (P <0.01). Initially the patients fatigued more slowly than the occluded controls, but at the end of exercise, the fatigue and pain were similar in these two groups. The controls showed a greater increase in muscle size (P = 0.01). Recovery was similar in all three groups, although the size of the patients' muscles recovered rather more slowly. CONCLUSION: External venous occlusion of the AT muscles in control subjects induces changes very similar to those of CECS patients, although the different time courses indicate that different processes are involved. The AT compartment of CECS patients is capable of distension.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1638-1644
Number of pages7
JournalMedicine and Science in Sports and Exercise
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2003


  • muscle pain
  • venous occlusion
  • muscle fatigue


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