Subsequent to the earthquake which occurred in Southern Italy in November 1980, 19 patients were admitted to the University of Naples--II Medical School with crush syndrome. Clinical and biochemical studies were carried out in eight of them. The most interesting observation was the inconstant relation between the type of lesion and the clinical course, leading to the assumption of two diverse physiopathologic mechanisms--one for crush and the other for compression. The timely recognition of the two syndromes is difficult; an elevated creatine-creatinine ratio has been found in those patients with an irreversible crush syndrome. We believe this to be the only element which would permit a prompt distinction between the two pathologic states and which would provide an indication for early, life-saving amputation.