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:
- Certain muscle diseases
- Severe muscle injuries (such as a crush injury)
- Overuse of alcohol
- Use of some prescription drugs
- Extensive surgical procedures using large, muscle-dividing incisions (rare)
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. Factors that may increase the risk of muscle damage include:
- Extreme exertion (such as running a marathon)
- Heat stroke
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Uncontrolled seizure disorder
The most common symptoms include:
- Dark urine (brown or red in color)
- Muscle pain
- Muscle weakness
Other symptoms include:
- Muscle swelling
- Back pain
In severe cases, rhabdomyolysis may result in:
- Kidney damage or failure due to blocked arterial blood flow
- Multi-organ failure
Abnormal heartbeat (arrhythmia)
Anatomy of the Kidney
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include:
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.
Medication may include:
- Diuretics—to help flush out the kidneys
- Bicarbonate—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:
. Updated January 26, 2011. Accessed October 17, 2012.
Sauret J, Marinides G. Rhabdomyolysis.
Am Fam Physician. 2002 Mar 1:65(5):907-913.
Last reviewed October 2012 by Adrienne Carmack, 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.
Copyright © EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.