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Sex and gender differences in lower limb chronic exertional compartment syndrome: a systematic review.

  • Rothman, Rachel1
  • Berke, Chandler2
  • Jivanelli, Bridget3
  • Casey, Ellen1
  • Cheng, Jennifer1
  • 1 Department of Physiatry, Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, NY, USA.
  • 2 Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.
  • 3 Kim Barrett Memorial Library, Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, NY, USA.
Published Article
The Physician and sportsmedicine
Publication Date
Feb 01, 2024
DOI: 10.1080/00913847.2023.2173489
PMID: 36698053


Chronic exertional compartment syndrome (CECS) is a cause of exertional leg pain and has been reported in varying frequencies in males and females. Currently, it is unclear whether there are significant sex and gender differences in lower-limb CECS. Delineating sex and gender differences is vital in determining the causes of CECS and best treatments. This systematic review aimed to determine the sex/gender distribution of CECS and to assess for sex and gender differences in CECS diagnosis and outcomes. PubMed (Medline), Cochrane Library, and EMBASE databases were searched for studies that were published from January 2000-March 2022 and reported lower-limb CECS data in males and/or females. Data on CECS diagnosis (intracompartmental pressures) and outcomes (e.g. post-surgical return-to-sport, need for re-operation) with sex/gender breakdowns were extracted. The sex/gender distribution of CECS and prevalence of CECS by sex/gender were calculated. Forty-one studies were included in the systematic review; there were 27 retrospective reviews, 8 prospective studies, and 6 retrospective studies with prospective follow-ups. Thirty studies involved surgical populations. Sex/gender distribution of CECS was calculated using data from 24 studies; 51% were female. Prevalence of CECS was available in five studies and ranged widely for males (54%-73%) and females (43%-65%). Intracompartmental pressure data varied by sex/gender. Male athletes were more likely than female athletes to return to sport following surgery for CECS, but variations in all other post-surgical outcomes were observed between sexes and genders in the general population. Females represented 51% of the patients who were diagnosed with CECS among studies. Most CECS diagnosis and outcomes data varied by sex/gender, except for post-surgical outcomes data in athletes, which demonstrated that males had higher rates of return to sport than females. Future studies are needed to examine factors contributing to sex and gender differences in CECS diagnosis and outcomes.

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