Critical illness myopathy

Curr Rheumatol Rep. 2002 Oct;4(5):403-8. doi: 10.1007/s11926-002-0085-y.


Acute myopathy is a common problem in intensive care units. Those at highest risk for developing critical illness myopathy are exposed to intravenous corticosteroids and paralytic agents during treatment of various illnesses. Diffuse weakness and failure to wean from mechanical ventilation are the most common clinical manifestations. Serum creatine kinase levels are variable. Electrodiagnostic studies reveal findings of a myopathic process, often with evidence of muscle membrane inexcitability. Based on animal model studies, the loss of muscle membrane excitability may be related to inactivation of sodium channels at the resting potential. In addition, human and animal pathologic studies reveal characteristic loss of myosin with relative preservation of other structural proteins. In some patients, there is also upregulation of proteolytic pathways, involving calpain and ubiquitin, in conjunction with increased apoptosis. Fortunately, the disorder is reversible, but there may be considerable morbidity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Creatine Kinase / blood
  • Critical Illness
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Electrodiagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Muscular Diseases* / diagnosis
  • Muscular Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Muscular Diseases* / etiology
  • Muscular Diseases* / physiopathology
  • Myosins / metabolism


  • Creatine Kinase
  • Myosins