Rhabdomyolysis

  • Medical Author:
    Siamak N. Nabili, MD, MPH

    Dr. Nabili received his undergraduate degree from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), majoring in chemistry and biochemistry. He then completed his graduate degree at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His graduate training included a specialized fellowship in public health where his research focused on environmental health and health-care delivery and management.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Rhabdomyolysis Symptoms and Causes

What are the symptoms of rhabdomyolysis?

The muscle damage causes inflammation leading to tenderness, swelling, and weakness of the affected muscles. The dark urine color is due to myoglobin being excreted in the urine by the kidney as it tries to rid the body of the muscle breakdown products.

Symptoms related to the expected complications of rhabdomyolysis include:

  • symptoms of kidney failure, which may include swelling of the hands and feet;
  • shortness of breath as excess fluid builds up in the lungs,
  • lethargy;
  • weakness;
  • symptoms of hyperkalemia (elevations in potassium in the blood) such as weakness, nausea, lightheadedness, and palpitations due to heart rhythm disturbances); and
  • disseminated intravascular coagulation, a disruption of the normal blood clotting process, may occur as unexplained bleeding.

Rhabdomyolysis facts

  • Rhabdomyolysis is the rapid destruction of skeletal muscle resulting in leakage into the urine of the muscle protein myoglobin.
  • Rhabdomyolysis has many causes.
  • Medications can cause muscle injury and rhabdomyolysis.
  • Rhabdomyolysis can cause muscle pain and weakness.
  • Blood levels of muscle enzymes, including CPK, SGOT, SGPT, and LDH, as well as blood and urine myoglobin are used to diagnose and monitor rhabdomyolysis.
  • Hospitalization is sometimes required to treat rhabdomyolysis.

What is rhabdomyolysis?

Rhabdomyolysis (RAB-DOE-MY-O-LIE-SIS) is the rapid destruction of skeletal muscle resulting in leakage into the urine of the muscle protein myoglobin.

There are three different types of muscle in the human body;

  1. smooth muscle,
  2. skeletal muscle, and
  3. heart muscle.

The skeletal muscle is the muscle of movement of the body (moving the skeleton at the joints). Skeletal muscle is affected by rhabdomyolysis.

Myoglobin is a protein component of the muscle cells that is released into the blood when the skeletal muscle is destroyed in rhabdomyolysis. Creatine kinase is an enzyme (a protein that facilitates chemical reactions in the body) also in the muscle cells. The level of each of these proteins can be measured in blood to monitor the degree of muscle injury from rhabdomyolysis. Myoglobin can also be measured in samples of urine.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/9/2015
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