Diagnostic evaluation of rhabdomyolysis

Muscle Nerve. 2015 Jun;51(6):793-810. doi: 10.1002/mus.24606. Epub 2015 Mar 14.


Rhabdomyolysis is characterized by severe acute muscle injury resulting in muscle pain, weakness, and/or swelling with release of myofiber contents into the bloodstream. Symptoms develop over hours to days after an inciting factor and may be associated with dark pigmentation of the urine. Serum creatine kinase and urine myoglobin levels are markedly elevated. Clinical examination, history, laboratory studies, muscle biopsy, and genetic testing are useful tools for diagnosis of rhabdomyolysis, and they can help differentiate acquired from inherited causes of rhabdomyolysis. Acquired causes include substance abuse, medication or toxic exposures, electrolyte abnormalities, endocrine disturbances, and autoimmune myopathies. Inherited predisposition to rhabdomyolysis can occur with disorders of glycogen metabolism, fatty acid β-oxidation, and mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation. Less common inherited causes of rhabdomyolysis include structural myopathies, channelopathies, and sickle-cell disease. This review focuses on the differentiation of acquired and inherited causes of rhabdomyolysis and proposes a practical diagnostic algorithm. Muscle Nerve 51: 793-810, 2015.

Keywords: etiology; inherited myopathy; metabolic myopathy; rhabdomyolysis; symptoms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Lactic Acid / blood
  • Muscles / pathology
  • Rhabdomyolysis / diagnosis*
  • Rhabdomyolysis / genetics
  • Rhabdomyolysis / therapy


  • Lactic Acid