The adequacy of limb escharotomies-fasciotomies after referral to a major burn center

R. L. Brown, David G Greenhalgh, R. J. Kagan, G. D. Warden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


To determine the frequency of inadequate decompression and its complications, the medical records of 108 pediatric burn patients requiring escharotomies or fasciotomies were reviewed. Of 108 patients, 100 (93%) had escharotomies or fasciotomies performed at an outlying facility before transfer. Of these 100 patients, 44 (117 limbs) were inadequately decompressed and required further decompression after admission to our facility. Initial mean compartment pressures were 50.3 ± 1.3 mm Hg, which were reduced to 16.3 ± 0.5 mm Hg after decompression. Pulses were present in 74% of limbs requiring decompression. Twenty limbs required decompression despite noncircumferential burns. Complications of inadequate or delayed decompression included foot drop in 20 patients (35 limbs) and muscle necrosis in 13 patients (23 limbs). Four patients (seven limbs) required amputations because of progressive muscle necrosis and infection. Complications of the procedure itself were limited to bleeding in three patients. In conclusion, compartment pressures should be followed in patients with significant burns since pressures may increase over time and pulses are not predictive of ischemia. Failure to decompress extremities with elevated pressures leads to significant but preventable complications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)916-920
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Trauma
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1994
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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