What is rhabdomyolysis?

What is rhabdomyolysis?


Rhabdomyolysis (RAB-DOE-MY-O-LIE-SIS) is the rapid destruction of skeletal muscle resulting in leakage into theurine of the muscle protein myoglobin.


There are three different types of muscle in the human body;

  1. smooth muscle,
  2. skeletal muscle, and
  3. heart muscle.

The skeletal muscle is the muscle of movement of the body (moving the skeleton at the joints). Skeletal muscle is affected by rhabdomyolysis.

Myoglobin is a protein component of the muscle cells that is released into the blood when the skeletal muscle is destroyed in rhabdomyolysis. Creatinekinase is an enzyme (a protein that facilitates chemical reactions in the body) also in the muscle cells. The level of each of these proteins can bemeasured in blood to monitor the degree of muscle injury from rhabdomyolysis. Myoglobin can also be measured in samples of urine.

Risk factors include the following:

  • Alcoholism (with subsequent muscle tremors)
  • Certain inherited or genetic syndromes
  • Crush Injuries
  • Heat intolerance
  • Heatstroke
  • Ischemia or necrosis of the muscles (as may occur with arterial occlusion, deep venous thrombosis, or other conditions)
  • Low phosphate levels
  • Seizures
  • Severe exertion such as marathon running or calisthenics
  • Shaking chills
  • Trauma
  • Use or overdose of drugs, especially cocaine, amphetamines, statins, heroin, or PCP


  • Abnormal urine color (dark, red, or cola colored)
  • General weakness
  • Muscle stiffness or aching (myalgia)
  • Muscle tenderness
  • Weakness of the affected muscles

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