What Is Rhabdomyolysis?

Health & Medical Blog

After pushing yourself extra hard during a workout, your arms are so sore you can barely move them. You even begin to notice some swelling. You may just be dealing with delayed onset muscle soreness, but you may also have a serious condition known as rhabdomyolysis (or rhabdo).

What is rhabdo?

Rhabdo is caused by the breakdown of muscle fibers. This breakdown causes a protein called myoglobin to be released into the bloodstream, potentially leading to kidney failure. Patients with rhabdo typically experience muscle soreness, swelling, and muscle weakness. Dark urine, or urine with blood in it, is another sign, and can help differentiate rhabdo from delayed onset muscle soreness. Some also suffer from a fever and nausea.

Overdoing it during a workout isn't the only cause of rhabdo. Anything involving trauma to the muscles can lead to the condition. The post-injury swelling associated with rhabdo can become so severe that some patients develop compartment syndrome, where the inflamed muscle becomes so large it can't expand any further. The resulting pressure build-up and lack of blood flow can kill off muscle tissue.

How is it diagnosed?

Rhabdo is diagnosed through a physical examination by your doctor. A urinalysis can help determine if myoglobin is present in the patient's urine. Blood work may also be used to check on kidney function and check the patient's creatine phosphokinase (also known as CPK) levels. Rhabdo generally causes elevated levels of CPK in the blood.

Is rhabdo treatable?

Sometimes, rhabdo is severe enough that the patient must be hospitalized until their CPK levels return to normal. The most concerning aspect of rhabdo is its tendency to cause kidney damage and failure, so IV fluids are administered to help keep the kidneys functioning. Medication may be used to increase urine output, and dialysis may also be necessary. If compartment syndrome is suspected, surgery may be necessary to relieve muscle pressure. Surgery involves cutting into the muscle housing, to give the muscle itself more room to expand.

In other instances, the patient may be sent home, and instructed to rest and drink plenty of fluids. Pain medication may be prescribed if the muscle injury is too painful. Treatment time varies, so patients sent home will likely have to follow-up periodically with the doctor to determine where they're at in their recovery.

Rhabdo is a potentially life-threatening condition. If you suspect you may have rhabdo after a particularly brutal workout, it's important to see your doctor immediately. For more information, contact a professional like those at Sound Family Health.


21 June 2015

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