Rhabdomyolysis occurs when skeletal muscles are damaged and release myoglobin into the bloodstream. Myoglobin is an iron-containing pigment that can cause severe damage to the kidneys.
Rhabdomyolysis results from any condition that causes significant muscle damage. These include:
- Excessive muscle activity
- Certain muscle diseases
- Severe muscle injuries, such as a crush injury
- Overuse of alcohol
- Uncontrolled seizure disorder
- Contact with an electrical current
- Toxins, such as snake or spider venom
- Extensive surgical procedures using large, muscle-dividing incisions—rare
Factors that may increase the risk of muscle damage include:
- Extreme exertion, such as running a marathon
- Heat stroke
- Use of some prescription drugs
- Alcohol or drug abuse
The most common symptoms include:
- Dark urine—brown or red in color
- Muscle pain
- Muscle weakness
Other symptoms include:
- Muscle swelling
- Back pain
- Nausea and vomiting
In severe cases, rhabdomyolysis may result in:
- Kidney damage or failure
- Multi-organ failure
Abnormal heartbeat, also known as
Anatomy of the Kidney
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The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include:
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
The activity of your muscles and heart may be tested. This can be done with:
Treatment may include:
Giving large amounts of fluid is the main treatment. Fluids are usually given by IV. Hydration helps to quickly flush myoglobin out of the kidneys to restore their function.
Bicarbonate may be used to minimize myoglobin's toxic effects.
is a procedure that uses an artificial kidney machine to filter blood. The clean blood is then returned to your body.
Steps for prevention include:
Drink plenty of fluids when:
- Sitting or working in hot, humid weather
- Avoid overuse of alcohol
- Avoid illicit drugs
Criddle L. Rhabdomyolysis.
Crit Care Nurse. 2003 Dec 23(6):14-30.
Rhabdomyolysis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
https://dynamed.ebscohost.com. Updated October 28, 2012. Accessed July 15, 2013.
Sauret J, Marinides G. Rhabdomyolysis.
Am Fam Physician. 2002 Mar 1:65(5):907-913.
Last reviewed July 2013 by Adrienne Carmack, MD; Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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