Rhabdomyolysis is a process in which dying muscle cells cause the
toxic buildup of certain substances in the blood. Some of these substances are creatine, myoglobin,
aldolase, potassium, and lactate dehydrogenase. Left untreated, rhabdomyolysis
can cause life-threatening damage to body organs, including kidney
Rhabdomyolysis can be caused by a variety of problems,
Severe muscle injury, such as that caused by
prolonged pressure on muscle tissue, heat exhaustion, extreme physical
exertion, seizures, and electrical burns.
Medicines, such as
statins, salicylates, gemfibrozil, phenothiazines, corticosteroids, and
Toxins, such as alcohol, cocaine, hornet stings,
snakebites, and carbon monoxide.
Salmonella and infections such as
influenza, Legionnaires' disease, and blood infections caused by gram-negative
Early symptoms are often subtle. Muscle weakness, pain, tenderness,
and stiffness may develop along with fever, nausea, confusion, and a general
ill feeling (malaise). Urine may also be noticeably dark.
Treatment for rhabdomyolysis includes removing the cause of the
muscle cell destruction whenever possible, such as by stopping certain
medicines. Measures to help the kidneys remove the buildup of toxins and
other chemicals, such as providing plenty of fluids, is also important. Other
treatment (such as dialysis) may be needed if rhabdomyolysis is severe.
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology & Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
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