Rhabdomyolysis after neurosurgery: a review and a framework for prevention

Neurosurg Rev. 2013 Apr;36(2):195-202; discussion 203. doi: 10.1007/s10143-012-0423-0. Epub 2012 Sep 2.


Rhabdomyolysis (RM) is a potentially fatal or disabling clinical syndrome resulting in muscle necrosis and leakage of muscle constituents into the blood. Lactic acidosis and more serious complications such as acute renal failure may occur in up to half of recognized cases, so accurate diagnosis is required. We present three cases in which RM occurred in patients undergoing neurosurgical procedures performed in the lateral position. A review of the literature is provided together with a framework for the prevention of this surgical complication. Three patients underwent neurosurgical procedures in the lateral position for left facial/glossopharyngeal neuralgia, for jugular foramen tumor, and for a petroclival meningioma, respectively. All patients were obese and all three showed massive postoperative elevation in creatine kinase (CK) levels characteristic of RM. Myoglobinuria was identified in two patients and all three showed hyperintensity of the hip gird muscles in the short tau inversion recovery sequence magnetic resonance imaging. All recovered spontaneously and none went on to develop renal failure. A literature review showed that RM has been rarely reported after neurosurgery. However, the duration of procedures of the cases of reported RM indicates that the prevalence of the condition is likely highly under-recognized in neurosurgery. This is particularly important given the rising obesity rates seen in many countries. Obese patients undergoing long neurosurgical procedures, particularly in the lateral position, should be suspected of RM and should be closely monitored for CK levels, myoglobinuria, and acidosis. We outline a framework of strategies for the prevention of the condition.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Brain Neoplasms / surgery
  • Craniotomy
  • Female
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / complications
  • Gastrostomy
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Mastoid / surgery
  • Meningioma / surgery
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurosurgical Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Pain, Postoperative / etiology
  • Postoperative Complications / diagnosis
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control*
  • Postoperative Complications / therapy
  • Rhabdomyolysis / diagnosis
  • Rhabdomyolysis / prevention & control*
  • Rhabdomyolysis / therapy