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:
Factors that may increase your chance of muscle damage include:
- Extreme exertion, such as running a marathon
- Use of some prescription drugs
- Alcohol or drug abuse
The most common symptoms include:
- Dark urine—brown or red in color
- Muscle pain
- Muscle weakness
Other symptoms include:
- Muscle swelling
- Back pain
- Nausea and vomiting
In severe cases, rhabdomyolysis may result in:
- Kidney damage or failure
- Multi-organ failure
Abnormal heartbeat, also known as
|Anatomy of the Kidney
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You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
The activity of your muscles and heart may be tested. This can be done with:
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.
Bicarbonate may be used to minimize myoglobin's toxic effects.
is a procedure that uses a machine to filter blood when the kidneys are not functioning. The clean blood is then returned to your body.
To reduce your chance of muscle damage and rhabdomyolysis:
Drink plenty of fluids when:
- Sitting or working in hot, humid weather
- Drink alcohol in moderation—this is 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women
- Avoid illicit drugs
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
National Kidney Foundation
The Kidney Foundation of Canada
Rhabdomyolysis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 30, 2015. Accessed June 1, 2016.
Sauret JM, Marinides G, Wang GK. Rhabdomyolysis.
Am Fam Physician. 2002:65(5):907-913.
Torres PA, Helmstetter JA, Kaye AM, Kaye AD. Rhabdomyolysis: Pathogenesis, diagnosis, and treatment. Ochsner J. 2015;15(1):58-69.