WellSpan Home

Rhabdomyolysis

Topic Overview

What is rhabdomyolysis?

Rhabdomyolysis (say "rab-doh-my-AH-luh-suss") is a rare but serious muscle problem. When you have it, your muscle cells break down, or dissolve. The contents of those cells leak into the blood. When it's in the blood, that material can travel to various parts of the body and cause problems.

If left untreated, this condition can be life-threatening. But when it's treated right away, most people make a full recovery.

What causes rhabdomyolysis?

Rhabdomyolysis can be caused by a variety of problems, such as:

  • Severe muscle injury.This might be caused by prolonged pressure on muscle tissue, heat exhaustion, extreme physical exertion, seizures, or electrical burns.
  • Medicines.Medicines that can cause this problem include:
    • Statins. These are medicines used to treat high cholesterol.
    • Salicylate. This is a form of aspirin that is found in Pepto-Bismol. It's also in some medicines used to reduce fever, pain, and inflammation such as in arthritis.
    • Gemfibrozil. This is a medicine used to treat high cholesterol.
    • Phenothiazine. This is used to treat certain psychiatric problems. It may also be used to treat severe nausea and vomiting.
    • Corticosteroids. This is a group of medicines used to treat or prevent inflammation.
    • Phenytoin. This is used to prevent and control seizures.
  • Toxins.Toxins are substances that are poisonous, such as alcohol, cocaine, hornet stings, snakebite, and carbon monoxide.
  • Certain infections. This includes salmonella, the flu, Legionnaires' disease, and some blood infections.

What are the symptoms?

Early symptoms are often hard to notice. Symptoms include:

  • Weak muscles.
  • Pain.
  • Stiffness.
  • Fever.
  • Nausea.
  • Dark-colored urine.

How is rhabdomyolysis diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask questions about your symptoms and past health and do a physical exam. The diagnosis is confirmed with blood and urine tests.

How is it treated?

Most people need to be treated in the hospital. If possible, the doctor will stop the cause of muscle cell death. The doctor will take steps to protect your organs. You may have to stop taking certain medicines if they are the cause of the problem.

You will also get treatment to help the kidneys remove the toxins from your blood. This includes getting plenty of fluids. You may get fluids through a vein (by IV). If your kidneys are badly damaged, you may also need dialysis.

How can you prevent it from coming back?

  • Follow your doctor's advice to stop taking any medicines that may have helped cause the problem.
  • Fluids help your kidneys filter out substances that can cause problems. Make sure you're getting enough fluids, especially:
    • After strenuous exercise.
    • After any condition that may have damaged your skeletal muscles. These are muscles that help you move, walk, and lift.

If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine

Current as ofMarch 15, 2018


Are you sure you would like to cancel?

All information will be lost.

Yes No ×

About the provider search

This search will provide you with WellSpan Medical Group and Northern Lancaster County (Ephrata) Medical Group primary care physicians and specialists. If we don’t have a WellSpan Medical Group physician to meet your criteria, the search will expand to include community physicians who partner with WellSpan Medical Group physicians through the WellSpan Provider Network or provide care to patients on the Medical Staffs of WellSpan’s Hospitals.

×

Schedule Your Next Appointment Online with MyWellSpan

Use your MyWellSpan patient portal any time to view available appointments, and pick the date and time that best suits your schedule.

Go to MyWellSpan

New to this practice?

If you don't have a WellSpan primary care provider and would like to schedule a new patient appointment with a provider who is accepting patients, just log into your MyWellSpan account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to see the offices that are accepting new patients in relation to your zip code. If you are not enrolled in MyWellSpan, go to https://my.wellspan.org, call 1-866-638-1842 or speak with a member of the staff at a participating facility to sign up. New patient scheduling not available at all practices/programs.

Already a patient at this practice?

If you already have a relationship with a WellSpan practice, simply log into your account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to schedule an appointment with any provider or practice that already counts you as a patient. Online scheduling varies by practice/program.

×