Rhabdomyolysis associated with cocaine abuse

Hum Pathol. 1991 Nov;22(11):1141-5. doi: 10.1016/0046-8177(91)90267-s.


There have been recent reports of rhabdomyolysis associated with cocaine abuse. The pathologic findings from these cases have not been described. Pathologic abnormalities in two fatalities with cocaine-associated rhabdomyolysis, including one with hyperpyrexia, acute renal failure, and disseminated intravascular coagulation, are discussed in detail. Skeletal muscle in both cases showed necrosis without evidence of vasculitis, polarizable foreign crystals, or other specific lesions. The individual with renal failure showed acute tubular necrosis with granular myoglobin casts in tubules. The mechanism of cocaine-associated rhabdomyolysis is unclear, but potentially includes ischemia due to vasoconstriction, direct toxicity, hyperpyrexia, and increased muscle activity from agitation or seizure. Adulterants may also play a role. In unexplained cases of rhabdomyolysis, toxicologic evidence of cocaine should be sought. In those cases of rhabdomyolysis associated with acute renal failure, the presence of cocaine in blood may be prolonged because of impaired renal clearance.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cocaine*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Rhabdomyolysis / etiology*
  • Rhabdomyolysis / pathology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications*


  • Cocaine