Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter March 19, 2010

Rhabdomyolysis: historical background, clinical, diagnostic and therapeutic features

Gianfranco Cervellin, Ivan Comelli and Giuseppe Lippi


Rhabdomyolysis, a term used to describe the rapid breakdown of striated muscle, is characterized by rupture and necrosis of muscle fibers. This process results in the release of cell breakdown products into the bloodstream and extracellular space. Although direct muscle injury remains the most common cause of muscle injury, additional causes include hereditary enzyme disorders, drugs, toxins, endocrinopathies, malignant hyperthermia, neuroleptic malignant syndrome, heatstroke, hypothermia, electrolyte alterations, diabetic ketoacidosis and non-ketotic hyperosmolar coma, severe hypo- or hyperthyroidism and bacterial or viral infections. The classic triad of symptoms includes muscle pain, weakness and dark urine, although more than 50% of the patients do not complain of muscle pain or weakness. Additional systemic symptoms include fever, general malaise, tachycardia, nausea and vomiting. The laboratory diagnosis is based essentially on the measurement of creatine kinase in serum or plasma. Plasma and urine myoglobin measurement might be useful in the early stages of the syndrome and for identifying a subset of patients with minor skeletal muscle injury. Patient monitoring is pivotal (the mortality rate is as high as 8%), and should be focused on preventing the detrimental consequences, that often include renal disease and coagulopathy. In the pre-hospital setting, forced hydration with 1.5–2 L of sterile saline solution should be started immediately, followed by 1.5–2 L/h. Following hospital admission, continuous hydration should be ensured, alternating the saline solution with a 5% glucose solution. In the presence of myoglobinuria, urine should be alkalinized by use of sodium bicarbonate solution.

Clin Chem Lab Med 2010;48:749–56.

Corresponding author: Prof. Giuseppe Lippi, U.O. Diagnostica Ematochimica, Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria di Parma, Via Gramsci 14, 43126 Parma, Italy Phone: +39-0521-703050/54, ;

Received: 2009-11-17
Accepted: 2009-12-4
Published Online: 2010-03-19
Published in Print: 2010-06-01

©2010 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin New York

Scroll Up Arrow