It is named after Dr. Richard von Volkmann (1830 - 1889), the 19th century German doctor who first described it, in a paper on "non-Infective Ischemic conditions of various fascial compartments in the extremities".
Volkmann's contracture results from ischaemia of the muscles of the forearm. It is caused by pressure, possibly from improper use of a tourniquet, improper use of a plaster cast or from compartment syndrome. It is commonly described in a supracondylar fracture where it results from the occlusion of the brachial artery or from the ensuing compartment syndrome
Fibrosis in the flexor compartment pulls the fingers into flexion and the wrist into flexion and pronation. However, active extension of the fingers is possible when the wrist is passively flexed indicating that the contracture is in the forearm
Surgery to release the fixed tissues may help with the deformity and function of the hand.