Definition of Volkmann’s ischemic contracture
Volkmann’s contracture is a deformity of the hand, fingers, and wrist caused by injury to the muscles of the forearm.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Volkmann’s contracture occurs when there is a lack of blood flow (ischemia) to the forearm. This usually occurs when there is increased pressure due to swelling, a condition called compartment syndrome.
The main symptom is pain that does not improve with rest or pain medications, and continues to get worse with time. If the pressure is allowed to continue, there will be:
Signs and tests
The doctor will perform a physical exam. If you have compartment syndrome in the forearm, you will have severe pain when the doctor moves the fingers up and down. Your forearm may be very swollen and shiny. You will feel pain when your forearm is squeezed.
If there is a forearm or elbow fracture, you should use a sling or splint to keep the area still and raise the arm above heart level. This helps prevent further injury and excessive swelling.
How well a person does depends on the severity and stage of disease at the time treatment is started.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; and C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 7/28/2010