Chronic compartment syndrome of the quadriceps femoris muscle in athletes. Diagnosis, imaging and treatment with fasciotomy.

Orava S, Laakko E, Mattila K, Makinen L, Rantanen J, Kujala UM. Ann Chir Gynaecol 1998;87(1):53-8.

Chronic quadriceps femoris muscle compartment syndrome is described.

Over a 13 year period nine patients were diagnosed, treated surgically by fasciotomy and followed up at a referral center specialized in sports traumatology. There were four power lifters, three body builders, one endurance walker and one cyclist in the series. The use of anabolic steroids was admitted by four of the nine patients. The patients complained of gradually worsening pain on the anterolateral side of the thigh during training. Initially the pain appeared only at the end of the training session. As the syndrome became more severe, the pain began earlier during exercise and gradually became worse preventing maximal training. Skeletal radiographs and ultrasound examinations were normal, except in two patients, who had a positive echography finding with local atrophy. MRI examination confirmed the US diagnosis.

As conservative treatment did not provide relief of symptoms, a fasciotomy anterior to the iliotibial tract was performed bilaterally to seven patients and unilaterally to two patients. Biopsies from the atrophied sites showed muscle cell necrosis. All the patients recovered well after the surgery and were able return to their original level of sport. The only complication of surgery was a postoperative hematoma in one patient, which delayed the beginning of the training, but did not result in any persistent complaints.