Rhabdomyolysis (RM) is the breakdown of muscle tissue. This releases toxic substances into the bloodstream. The most common cause for this condition is muscle injury. The injury may be from an accident such as a car or bike accident, a crushing injury to part of your body, a fall, electrical shock, or severe burn. Very strenuous exercise such as long-distance running can also cause RM. So can lying in one position for a long time such as when unconscious. It can also happen when an older adult falls on the floor and remains there because he or she can't get up or call for help. Certain medicines, poisons, drugs, or infections can also cause it, as can long seizures from any cause.

RM often has no symptoms. When symptoms do occur they may include rust-colored urine and muscle pain or weakness.

Severe RM can be fatal. It can cause serious problems with the kidneys or heart. Symptoms of severe RM may include fever, fast heart rate, and belly (abdominal) pain. It can also affect the blood’s ability to form a clot. Because of this, RM is a medical emergency. It's treated in the hospital with IV (intravenous) fluids to flush the toxins out of the body. 

Home care

  • Rest for the next 24 hours. Don't do any strenuous activity.

  • Drink extra fluids to stay well hydrated and to continue flushing toxins out of your system. Unless told otherwise, drink 3 quarts of clear fluids over the next 24 hours.

  • Take any medicines you are prescribed as directed.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. You will likely need repeat blood tests and an exam within the next 24 hours.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if symptoms don't improve or get worse. 

Call 911

Call 911 if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Fast or irregular heartbeat (palpitations)

  • Dizziness, weakness, or fainting

  • Decreased urination or dark urine

  • Swelling, pain, or numbness in the arms, hands, legs, or feet

  • Confusion

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Seizure

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