Acute rhabdomyolysis associated with cocaine intoxication

N Engl J Med. 1988 Sep 15;319(11):673-7. doi: 10.1056/NEJM198809153191103.


Because an increasing number of patients were arriving at our emergency room with cocaine intoxication and rhabdomyolysis, we reviewed our experience with such patients. We identified 39 patients seen at our institution over an eight-year period with acute rhabdomyolysis after cocaine use. The patients' mean creatine kinase level was 12,187 U per liter (range, 1756 to 85,000). Thirteen of the 39 patients (33 percent) had acute renal failure; 6 of them died. In comparison to the patients with normal renal function, those with renal failure were more often admitted with profound hypotension (46 vs. 4 percent; P less than 0.001), hyperpyrexia (69 vs. 15 percent; P less than 0.001), and markedly elevated serum creatine kinase levels (mean, 28,084 vs. 7931 U per liter; P less than 0.01). Disseminated intravascular coagulation developed in seven patients with renal failure. All six deaths were in this group. Severe hepatic dysfunction was found in 11 patients with renal failure. We conclude that cocaine intoxication can cause acute rhabdomyolysis with acute renal failure, severe liver dysfunction, and disseminated intravascular coagulation and that the mortality rate among patients with this syndrome is high.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Acute Kidney Injury / chemically induced
  • Adult
  • Chemical and Drug Induced Liver Injury
  • Cocaine / poisoning*
  • Creatine Kinase / blood
  • Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Rhabdomyolysis / chemically induced*


  • Creatine Kinase
  • Cocaine