Exertional rhabdomyolysis and renal failure in patients with sickle cell trait: is it time to change our approach?

Hematology. 2007 Aug;12(4):349-52. doi: 10.1080/10245330701255254.


Based upon numerous reported cases and despite widespread beliefs to the contrary, sickle cell trait (SCT) may be deemed a quantifiable risk factor in certain subsets of patients. As a result of common misconceptions regarding SCT, most individuals with the condition are generally not informed regarding the possible consequences of certain activities such as venturing to high altitudes or participating in overly exertional physical activities. Acute exertional rhabdomyolysis is a potentially serious clinical illness and is caused by skeletal muscle injury resulting in the release of myoglobin and other cellular contents, including creatine kinase, into the circulatory system. Mild to moderate cases of acute exertional rhabdomyolysis can cause metabolic disorders including hypernatremia, hyperkalemia, hyperphosphatemia, hypocalcemia, lactic acidosis and hyperuricemia. Severe cases may result in renal failure and even death. Several case reports have been published since the early 1970s describing significant morbidity and mortality of acute exertional rhabdomyolysis in patients with SCT. We present the case of a 27-year-old male with a past medical history significant only for SCT who presented after a 1.5 mile run with severe exertional rhabdomyolysis and subsequent acute renal failure requiring hemodialysis (HD). In presenting this case, we hope to raise awareness of a possible underlying cause to many cases of exertional rhabdomyolysis and encourage physicians to counsel their patients with SCT in order to avoid the significant morbidity and mortality that may be associated with the condition.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Kidney Injury / etiology*
  • Acute Kidney Injury / therapy
  • Adult
  • Biomarkers
  • Creatine Kinase / blood
  • Disease Management
  • Duty to Warn
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Exertion*
  • Renal Dialysis
  • Rhabdomyolysis / etiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Running
  • Sickle Cell Trait / complications*
  • Sickle Cell Trait / physiopathology


  • Biomarkers
  • Creatine Kinase