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Gluteal compartment syndrome: a case report

Nadia M Mustafa1*, Aerin Hyun1, James S Kumar2 and Lalitha Yekkirala2

Author Affiliations

1 Internal Medicine Residency Program, College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 611 W Park St, Urbana, IL 61801, USA

2 Associate Professor, College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 611 W Park St, Urbana, IL 61801, USA

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Cases Journal 2009, 2:190  doi:10.1186/1757-1626-2-190

Published: 10 November 2009



Gluteal compartment syndrome is a rare, often unrecognized syndrome that may manifest as renal failure, sepsis, and death. Delay in diagnosis can result in significant morbidity and possible mortality. We report a case of occult gluteal compartment syndrome causing unresolving rhabdomyolysis.

Case Presentation

A 50-year-old Caucasian American man with history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease was admitted status post fall and loss of consciousness for an unknown duration. Initial work-up revealed severe rhabdomyolysis, opioid abuse and acute renal failure. Inspite of three days of intensive therapy his condition did not improve and his renal failure worsened. On improvement of his condition three days later, he indicated some discomfort in his right hip. Physical examination was significant for swelling of the right gluteal region, which was tender and firm on palpation. A non-contrast CT scan showed evidence of gluteal compartment syndrome and emergent surgery resulted in significant improvement of his condition.


Gluteal compartment syndrome most commonly occurs in individuals with altered mental status due to drugs or alcohol, who remain in one position for an extended period of time. This prolonged compression leads to muscle damage, edema, and a full-blown compartment syndrome. Due to its anatomic location and rarity, diagnosis is often missed or delayed, resulting in significant morbidity and possible mortality. The mainstay of treatment is fasciotomy.