Myoglobinuria Clinical Presentation

Updated: Dec 20, 2018
  • Author: Prasad Devarajan, MD, FAAP; Chief Editor: Craig B Langman, MD  more...
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The classical triad of symptoms of rhabdomyolysis includes myalgia, muscle weakness, and dark urine. The typical history may include drug use, coma, trauma, or strenuous exercise. Patients who use diuretics and develop severe potassium deficiency may be predisposed to rhabdomyolysis.

  • Some patients may provide a history of viral illnesses, fever, convulsions, electric shock, burns, crush injuries, or trauma of any type. Patients may have a history of sepsis, especially sepsis that affects muscle tissue, such as gas gangrene. Others may give a history of participation in organized athletics during the summer or in strenuous exercise during athletic events, such as bicycle races or mountain climbing.

  • The use of some prescription drugs, such as azidothymidine (AZT) or lovastatin, or the ingestion of ethylene glycol may predispose individuals to myoglobinuria. Other drugs associated with myoglobinuria include heroin, codeine, barbiturates, amphetamines, licorice, diazepam, amphotericin-B, phencyclidine, and some dietary supplements.

  • Acute tumor lysis syndrome may be associated with myoglobinuria.

  • Snakebites, bites from recluse spiders, and multiple insect stings can cause muscle necrosis.

  • Ingestion of quail can precipitate myoglobinuria.

  • Autoimmune vesiculitis, such as dermatomyositis, may destroy muscle tissue.

  • Recurrent myoglobinuria was reported in a 14-year-old girl with Becker muscular dystrophy. [8]



See the list below:

  • Physical examination reveals generalized muscle weakness, often with painful muscle groups, trauma, and/or areas of ischemic pressure necrosis when the patient has laid down for extended periods.

  • Expect any patient with extensive trauma to have some myoglobinuria.

  • The volume status of the patient should be carefully and quickly determined because volume depletion necessitates rapid correction in order to prevent acute renal failure.



See the list below:

  • Trauma and compression: Trauma is one of the most common cause of myoglobinuria. Patients who experience crush injuries, such as those that occur when individuals are buried after earthquakes, have rhabdomyolysis and myoglobinuria. Volume depletion from fluid sequestration in damaged tissues and poor fluid intake accentuate the possibility of acute renal insufficiency. Electric shock can cause enough muscle damage to precipitate myoglobinuria.

  • Exertion: Exertional myoglobinuria occurs in most athletes but rarely becomes symptomatic unless combined with poor training, inadequate oral intake, dehydration, and heat exhaustion. Trauma from repeated blows to the muscle always releases myoglobin into the system. The treatment is prevention, which includes plentiful fluid, limited exercise during particularly hot periods, and avoiding muscle trauma. Athletes have more myoglobin in their muscles than other individuals and are prone to symptoms when small amounts of muscle tissue are damaged. [9, 10]

  • Viral myositis: Viral infections from a wide variety of organisms can cause myositis and myoglobinuria. Viral myositis is one of the most common causes of rhabdomyolysis in children. [11] Influenza is the predominant viral agent associated with rhabdomyolysis. The patient usually presents with generalized weakness and myalgias, particularly in the back and proximal extremities. Children with influenza A and influenza B viral infections can present with tenderness in calves and lower extremities. [12]

  • Electrolyte disorders: Metabolic diseases, particularly those involving muscle metabolism, may be associated with myoglobinuria. Males are affected more often, and symptomatology is exacerbated by exercise and heat injuries. Potassium depletion has been particularly associated with myoglobinuria.

  • Toxins, drugs, and diet

    • Snakebites and other venoms can cause muscle necrosis and myoglobinuria. [13]

    • Some drugs predispose individuals to rhabdomyolysis, including AZT (used to treat acquired immunodeficiency syndrome [AIDS]) and lovastatin (used to treat hypercholesterolemia). However, statin-induced rhabdomyolysis is rare and occurs in less than 0.1% of all users.

    • Alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines, phencyclidine, ecstasy, and some dietary supplements can lead to myoglobinuria. [14]

    • Ingestion of ethylene glycol, isopropyl alcohol, and phencyclidine has been associated with myoglobinuria.

    • Overindulgence in quail can also cause myoglobinuria in some patients.

  • Infection or sepsis syndromes: Syndromes involving muscle destruction include gas gangrene, tetanus, Legionnaire disease, or shigellosis. Coxsackie viral infections with myositis may be the most common cause of mild myoglobinuria.

  • Endocrine disorders: Diabetic ketoacidosis, myxedema, and nonketotic hyperosmolar comas can disrupt muscle energy.

  • Malignant hyperthermia and high fevers: These may be contributors.

  • Hereditary myopathies

    • Hereditary myopathies, such as McArdle syndrome and muscular dystrophy, can precipitate myoglobinuria.

    • The differential diagnosis for myoglobinuria must include metabolic myopathies. This diverse and complex list of disorders is long, with new additions each year.

    • In general, patients with myopathies report exercise intolerance, muscle pain, and cramps rather than weakness. Patients with some types of muscular dystrophy or inflammatory myositis (eg, dermatomyositis, polymyositis) may present with progressive weakness.

  • Metabolic disorders

    • Patients with defects of carbohydrate metabolism (eg, myophosphorylase, phosphofructokinase, phosphohexoisomerase deficiency) have symptoms of easy fatigability or cramping induced by dynamic isometric exercise, such as heavy lifting, or prolonged exercise, such as swimming or running. Acute muscle breakdown can lead to myoglobinuria. These patients typically present after participating in high-intensity exercise, such as weight lifting.

    • Defects in lipid metabolism include carnitine deficiency, beta-oxidation enzyme deficiency, or disorders of fatty acid transport. Prolonged fasting or prolonged activity induces muscle pain and myoglobinuria. Fever, sepsis, and exposure to cold can also induce muscle fatigue in this set of disorders. These patients typically develop symptoms after prolonged low-intensity exercise, such as walking.

    • Patients with mitochondrial disorders (beta-oxidation disorders) usually present with static and progressive muscular weakness. Failure to thrive, floppy-baby syndrome, and generalized muscle weakness are present in most of these children. Patients usually present with chronic muscle cramping and weakness rather than episodic muscle cramping and weakness. Patients with some types of muscular dystrophy or inflammatory myositis may present with progressive weakness.

    • A case study reinforced the idea that myoglobinuria should be considered a manifestation of a primary sarcoglycanopathy, even as the only recognizable sign at the debut of the disease. [15]

  • Heat exhaustion and cold exposure: These conditions induce abnormal muscle metabolism by means of various mechanisms, including poor perfusion and decreased oxygenation, acidosis, rhabdomyolysis, or glucose and/or glycogen depletion. [16] Reye syndrome may also be included in this group. Patients with recurrent exercise-induced myoglobinuria may have defective carnitine palmitoyltransferase activity. [17]