Issue: 2009 > October > review

Rhabdomyolysis: a review of the literature

F.Y. Khan


Rhabdomyolysis is a potentially life-threatening syndrome that can develop from a variety of causes; the classic findings of muscular aches, weakness and tea-coloured urine are non-specific and may not always be present. The diagnosis therefore rests upon the presence of a high level of suspicion of any abnormal laboratory values in the mind of the treating physician. An elevated plasma creatine kinase (CK) level is the most sensitive laboratory finding pertaining to muscle injury; whereas hyperkalaemia, acute renal failure and compartment syndrome represent the major life-threatening complications. The management of the condition includes prompt and aggressive fluid
resuscitation, elimination of the causative agents and
treatment and prevention of any complications that
may ensue. The objective of this review is to describe
the aetiological spectrum and pathophysiology of
rhabdomyolysis, the clinical and biological consequences
of this syndrome and to provide an appraisal of the current data available in order to facilitate the prevention, early diagnosis and prompt management of this condition.