Ability of near infrared spectroscopy to measure oxygenation in isolated upper extremity muscle compartments

Ashley L. Cole, Richard A. Herman, Jonathan B. Heimlich, Sahir Ahsan, Brett A. Freedman, Michael S. Shuler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Purpose: Near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), a noninvasive means for monitoring muscle oxygenation, may be useful in the diagnosis of acute compartment syndrome, a condition characterized by poor tissue perfusion. This study used the decrease in muscle oxygenation caused by exercise to investigate the ability of anatomic placement of NIRS sensor pads over compartments of the forearm to isolate perfusion values of a specific compartment. Methods: We recruited 63 uninjured volunteers from a private clinic-based setting and placed NIRS sensor pads over the dorsal, volar, and mobile wad compartments of 1 forearm. A total of 49 participants also had the contralateral forearm monitored, which served as an internal control. Participants performed a series of 3 exercises designed to sequentially activate the muscles of each compartment. A washout period separated each exercise to allow perfusion to return to baseline. We compared NIRS values of each compartment recorded during muscle contraction with baseline values. Results: Mean NIRS values decreased significantly from baseline during muscle contraction for all compartments, whereas mean NIRS values of muscle compartments that remained at rest showed little or no change. We observed no changes in NIRS values of the contralateral arm, which remained at rest during the entire data collection period. Conclusions: Although lack of an existing method for quantifying muscle perfusion precludes validation of this technique against a reference standard, this study suggests that NIRS can provide oxygenation values that are both sensitive and specific to muscle compartments of the forearm. Future studies should investigate NIRS among patients with upper extremity injuries. Type of study/level of evidence: Diagnostic III.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)297-302
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Hand Surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2012


  • Acute compartment syndrome
  • compartment syndrome
  • muscle perfusion
  • near infrared spectroscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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