Definition

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.

Causes

Rhabdomyolysis results from any condition that causes significant muscle damage. These include:

  • Certain muscle diseases
  • Severe muscle injuries (eg, crush injury)
  • Overuse of alcohol or illicit drugs
  • Use of some prescription drugs
  • Severe seizures or convulsions
  • Rarely may be caused by extensive surgical procedures using large muscle dividing incisions

Risk Factors

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

Symptoms

The most common symptoms include:

  • Dark colored (brown or red) urine
  • Muscle pain
  • Muscle weakness

Other symptoms include:

  • Muscle swelling
  • Back pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

In severe cases, rhabdomyolysis may result in:

  • Kidney damage or failure due to blocked arterial blood flow
  • Multi-organ failure
  • Abnormal heartbeat ( arrhythmia )

Kidney Blood Flow and Function

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Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Tests may include:

Treatment

Treatment may include:

Hydration

Giving large amounts of fluid is the main treatment. Fluids are usually given directly into a vein by an IV. Hydration helps to quickly flush myoglobin out of the kidneys, in order to restore their function.

Medication

Medication may include:

  • Diuretics—to help flush out the kidneys
  • Bicarbonate—to minimize myoglobin's toxic effects

Dialysis

Dialysis is a procedure that uses an artificial kidney machine to filter blood. The clean blood is then returned to your body.

Prevention

Steps for prevention include:

  • Drink plenty of fluids when:
    • Exercising
    • Sitting or working in hot, humid weather
  • Avoid overuse of alcohol.
  • Avoid illicit drugs.