Rhabdomyolysis is the breakdown of muscle and the release of muscle cell contents into the bloodstream. Rhabdomyolysis can be caused by genetic or environmental factors. Environmental factors that may cause rhabdomyolysis include crushing trauma, long surgeries, extreme temperatures, or severe muscle strain such as after a marathon or other athletic event. Other causes include severe dehydration, infection, drug use, and seizures. Genetic disorders such as those causing a reduction in muscle enzymes may also lead to rhabdomyolysis. The risk of rhabdomyolysis may be reduced by proper hydration after workout or injury.
Affected individuals may notice dark red or brown urine due to the excretion of muscle breakdown products. Other symptoms of rhabdomyolysis include vomiting, confusion, muscle aches, weakness, low blood pressure, and a rapid heart rate. In severe cases, complications such as permanent kidney damage may occur.
While some individuals may experience the symptoms described above, milder cases are often asymptomatic and later discovered on blood tests. Medications may be used to regulate urine output, and fluid may be given to restore electrolyte levels and prevent shock and kidney damage. Dialysis may be required to remove muscle breakdown products from the blood in individuals with poor kidney function. If you or your child has been diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, talk to your doctor about the most current treatment options.