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What is rhabdomyolysis?


When the term rhabdomyolysis is picked apart, it is translated to “breakdown of skeletal muscle”. Rhabdomyolysis is rare condition characterized by skeletal muscle necrosis. When muscle breaks down, contents of the muscle fiber are released into circulation. These constituents are then filtered in the kidneys, but the breakdown of the constituents, specifically myoglobin, are harmful to the kidneys. It could possibly lead to kidney damage. The severity of this condition ranges from asymptomatic elevations in blood serum to life-threatening kidney failure.


                The causes of rhabdomyolysis can be divided into 3 general categories shown below. Clinically, the most common causes of rhabdomyolysis include: trauma, immobilization, sepsis, and vascular and cardiac surgeries. Overexertion, drugs and toxins are other common causes.

  • Traumatic or muscle compression
    • Crush syndrome
    • Prolonged immobilization
  • Nontraumatic exertional
    • Extraordinary physical exertion
    • Body temperature extremes
    • Metabolic myopathies
  • Nontraumatic nonexertional
    • Drugs (includes prescription and recreational)
    • Toxins
    • Infections
    • Electrolyte disorders


  • Dark, red, or brown urine
  • Decreased urine output
  • Myalgia- muscle stiffness or aching
  • Muscle tenderness
  • Muscle weakness


             It is important to diagnose rhabdomyolysis as soon as possible since progression of this condition has detrimental consequences.

  • Blood serum test to determine health of muscles and kidneys to look at:
    • Creatine kinase levels
    • Creatinine
    • Electrolytes imbalances in calcium and potassium
    • Myoglobin
  • Urianalysis


If you develop symptoms similar to those listed above or have questions about rhabdomyolysis or other muscle injuries, talk to your doctor today. West Oaks Urgent Care Center is open seven days a week to help you.



Miller, MD, Mark L. “Causes of Rhabdomyolysis.” UpToDate. 1 Apr. 2014. Web. 23 Sept. 2014.



Miller, MD, Scott. “Rhabdomyolysis.” Medline Plus. 2 Oct. 2013. Web. 23 Sept. 2014.



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