Intraoperative photograph of the left anterior compartment of the thigh. The quadriceps musculature can be seen bulging through the fascial defects.
  • Muscle necrosis and release of intracellular muscle constituents into the circulation
  • Recurrent episodes suggests inherited metabolic disorder
  • Alcohol and drugs play a role in up to 80% of cases


Clinical Features

Urine from a person with rhabdomyolysis showing the characteristic brown discoloration as a result of myoglobinuria
Tea coloured with severe rhabdomyolysis

Differential Diagnosis

Extremity trauma

Red Urine



  • Obtain immediate ECG (electrolyte abnormalities)
  • Total CK
  • Urinalysis
  • CBC
  • Chemistry, including Mag, Phos
  • Uric acid
  • LFTs
  • VBG, venous pH
  • DIC panel
    • Coags, FSP, fibrinogen


  • Total CK
    • Most consider rhabdomyolysis if 5x or greater increase above upper limit of normal (~2000)
    • Serum CK begins to rise 2-12hr after injury, peaks within 24-72hr
    • Degree of CK elevation correlates with muscle injury, but NOT renal failure
  • CK-MB
    • May be normal or mildly elevated (<5% of total)
  • Uric Acid - elevates before CK
  • Myoglobinuria
    • Urinalysis = +blood, no RBCs (Sn ~80%)
    • Myoglobin is cleared within 1-6hr (often see elevated CK with no myoglobinuria)
  • Acute renal failure
    • Creatinine increase
  • Electrolyte abnormalities
  • LFTs elevation
    • Intramuscular release of AST/ALT [2] with AST>ALT.



  • Volume status
  • Urine pH
  • Chemistry
  • CK
  • Calcium, phosphorus
  • LFTs (elevation will resolve with resolving rhabdo)

IV Fluids

  • Start with IVF 1-2 L/hr
  • After rapid correction of fluid deficit, one method is infusing 2.5 mL/kg/hr with urine output goal of 200-300 ml/hr (2-3 cc/kg/hr)
  • Frequently need ~10 L/day

Urinary alkalinization

  • Administered as bicarbonate drip
    • Mix 150 mL [3 amps] of 8.4% sodium bicarbonate with 1 L D5W
    • Infuse at 200 mL/hour; rate is adjusted to achieve urine pH of >6.5
  • Controversial; no RCT to date have demonstrated benefit
  • Consider if CK >5000, severe muscle injury (crush injury), rising CK AND urine pH <6.5
  • Contraindications:
    • Severe hypocalcemia
    • Arterial pH > 7.50
    • Serum bicarbonate > 30 meq/L
    • Arterial pH and serum calcium should be monitored q2hr
  • Discontinue alkalinization:
    • Urine pH does not rise above 6.5 after 3-4hr
    • Patient develops symptomatic hypocalcemia
    • Arterial pH > 7.5
    • Serum bicarbonate >30 meq/L


  • Mannitol administration can worsen dehydration and oliguria and although used in the past should generally be avoided
  • No RCT to date has demonstrated benefit


  • Use rocuronium due to the potential elevations in potassium that result from the rhabdomyolysis


  • Discharge if:
    • Exertional rhabdo
    • Otherwise healthy
    • No comorbidities (heat stress, dehydration, trauma)
    • Downtrending total CK
      • Consider admission for CK >30,000
  • Otherwise admit to monitored bed


  • Acute Renal Failure
    • Neither presence of myoglobinuria nor degree of CK rise is predictive of ARF
    • Rare in exertional rhabdomyolysis with out presence of dehydration, heat stress, trauma
    • Most commonly oliguric
  • Hyperkalemia
    • Renal function, not release of K+, is most important determinant
    • Treat aggressively; insulin may be ineffective; may require dialysis
  • Hypocalcemia (initial phase)
    • Treat only if symptomatic or severely hyperkalemic (often have rebound hypercalcemia)
  • Hypercalcemia (recovery phase)
  • Hyperphosphatemia
    • Treat cautiously (treatment may worsen calcium precipitation in muscle)
    • Consider oral phosphate binders when level >7
  • DIC
    • Usually resolves spontaneously within several days
  • Compartment Syndrome
  • Peripheral nerve injury
    • Usually resolves within few days-weeks

See Also


  1. O'Connor AD et al. Prevalence of Rhabdomyolysis in Sympathomimetic Toxicity: A Comparison of Stimulants. J Med. Toxicol. 2015;11(2)195-200
  2. Mayo Clin Proc 2017;92[1]:e1; J Med Toxicol 2010;6[3]:294