What Causes Rhabdomyolysis?

Rhabdomyolysis, or rhabdo, is a rare medical emergency that involves a breakdown of muscle tissue. This muscle breakdown causes highly concentrated myoglobin to be released into the blood. Myoglobin is a protein normally found inside muscle cells and plays a critical role in muscle function. When it is released into the blood, myoglobin has a toxic effect on the body and can cause serious damage to the kidneys. Medical intervention is crucial to ensure kidney failure does not occur. Early treatment can completely prevent kidney damage. Getting treatment too late can result in permanent damage or death. Rhabdomyolysis is usually caused by a specific event, such as an injury, and the onset of symptoms is rapid.

Severe Burns

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Severe burns can sometimes cause rhabdomyolysis. Third-degree burns cause serious damage to small blood vessels called capillaries. The capillaries then start to leak, causing swelling and dangerously increased pressure in the muscle. This is known as compartment syndrome. The high pressure can lead to muscle breakdown. Patients with severe burns are more likely to develop rhabdo if they are immobile for a long time; this can occur if they pass out or if they undergo surgery. This is because keeping the burned body part immobile allows more pressure to build in the area. Electrical burns are more likely to cause rhabdomyolysis than other types of burns. Individuals sometimes develop rhabdomyolysis after being struck by lightning because of the resulting burns.

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