What Happens in Rhabdomyolysis

Rhabdomyolysis is a serious condition characterized by the rapid breakdown of damaged skeletal muscle tissue. When the muscle tissue breaks down, contents are released into the bloodstream. It can lead to complications like kidney failure. This happens when the kidneys are not able to excrete wastes and urine anymore. Sometimes but only rarely, it can also lead to death. This condition is due to direct or indirect injury to the muscle. The more immediate the treatment is, the better chances for success are.

Most common causes of rhabdomyolysis include excessive consumption of alcohol, use of illegal drugs like cocaine or amphetamines, extreme muscle strain like in sports, crash injury from building collapse, car accident or fall, long-term muscle compression, and use of certain medications like statins or corticosteroids in high doses. Other probable causes are electric shock injury, third-degree burn, lightning strike, heat stroke, extremely high body temperature (hyperthermia), seizures, metabolic disorders like ketoacidosis, muscular diseases, bacterial infection, and viral infection like flu, HIV or herpes simplex virus.

Unlike with other medical conditions, signs and symptoms for rhabdomyolysis are hard to point out. This is because the course of rhabdomyolysis varies according to the cause. Symptoms may develop in only one area or throughout the whole body. Some of the signs and symptoms to watch out for are painful, swollen and tender areas in the body, muscle weakness, difficulty in moving the arms or legs, nausea, vomiting, confusion, dehydration, fever, lack of consciousness, dark-colored urine, and reduced urine output.

To diagnose this condition, blood and urine tests are performed by the doctor. Then other tests will be done to rule out other conditions. These diagnostic tests will also check if there are any complications. Early complications include high levels of potassium in the blood that can result in irregular heartbeat and heart attack. Liver problems may also arise. In fact, one out of four people diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis suffer from liver ailments. Kidney failure is also possible. It happens to about 15 percent of patients suffering from rhabdomyolysis. There’s also a condition called compartment syndrome characterized by compression of the nerves, muscles and blood vessels that can damage tissues and inhibit proper flow of blood.

As mentioned earlier, immediate treatment is the key to successful treatment of this condition. Expect full recovery with early diagnosis and prompt treatment. Even kidney failure can be reversed in its early phase. However, if treatment is not given to a patient, especially one with compartment syndrome complication, lasting damage may result. As part of the treatment for rhabdomyolysis, you will be admitted to a hospital, usually in intensive care unit (ICU) for close monitoring. Kidney failure is prevented through intravenous fluids. If it still does occur, dialysis or filtering of wastes will be done. You may also need to undergo a surgical procedure called fasciotomy to treat the loss of blood circulation and nerve damage. Moreover, if the rhabdomyolysis is caused by a medical condition like diabetes for example, appropriate treatment for the underlying cause is necessary.

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