Lower Leg Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome in Patients 50 Years of Age and Older

Johan A. de Bruijn*, Aniek P. M. van Zantvoort, Michiel B. Winkes, Marike van der Cruijsen-Raaijmakers, Adwin R. Hoogeveen, Joep A. W. Teijink, Marc R. M. Scheltinga

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Lower leg chronic exertional compartment syndrome (CECS) is usually diagnosed in young and athletic individuals. The presence of CECS in older patients has received little attention in the literature, and patient characteristics are unknown. Purpose: To determine the prevalence of CECS in older patients (50 years) and to assess whether older patients with CECS differ clinically from younger patients with CECS. Study Design: Cohort study; Methods: All individuals with exercise-induced lower leg pain who visited a referral center for CECS between January 2001 and December 2013 were eligible for analysis. Patients were included if history, physical examination, and dynamic intracompartmental pressure measurement indicated CECS. Characteristics of patients 50 years of age or older were compared with characteristics of patients younger than 50. Results: A total of 698 patients with CECS were included: 98 patients were aged 50 years or older and 600 patients were younger than 50 years. Older individuals more often reported a history of lower leg events or comorbidities (50 years, 45% vs <50 years, 25%; P < .01) and unilateral symptoms (50 years, 45% vs <50 years, 22%; P < .01). Most older patients (62%) did not participate in sport or only walked or hiked, whereas the same was true of only 7% of the younger population. Pain (50 years, 94%; <50 years, 96%) and tightness (50 years, 57%; <50 years, 62%) were the predominant symptoms of CECS in both groups. Type of CECS differed significantly (P < .01); the anterior muscle compartment was involved more frequently in older patients (50 years, 82% vs <50 years, 59%) and deep flexor muscle CECS was more often diagnosed in younger patients (50 years, 26% vs <50 years, 53%). Conclusion: In the present population, 1 in 7 patients diagnosed with lower leg CECS was 50 years of age or older. These individuals were less active and had more comorbidities than patients younger than 50 years. Older individuals predominantly have anterior CECS. Clinicians should consider CECS in older individuals with exercise-induced lower leg pain, particularly if it is unilateral.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2325967118757179
Number of pages6
JournalOrthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2 Mar 2018


  • older patients
  • CECS
  • chronic exertional compartment syndrome
  • PAIN

Cite this