Exertional Rhabdomyolysis: A Clinical Review With a Focus on Genetic Influences

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Abstract

In this review, the clinical and laboratory features of exertional rhabdomyolysis (ER) are discussed in detail, emphasizing the full clinical spectrum from physiological elevations of serum creatine kinase after exertion to life-threatening rhabdomyolysis with acute kidney injury and associated systemic complications. Laboratory markers used to diagnose both ER and rhabdomyolysis are very sensitive, but not very specific, and imperfectly distinguish “subclinical” or asymptomatic from severe, life-threatening illness. However, genetic factors, both recognized and yet to be discovered, likely influence this diverse clinical spectrum of disease and response to exercise. Genetic mutations causative for McArdle disease, carnitine palmitoyl transferase deficiency 2, myoadenylate deaminase deficiency, and malignant hyperthermia have all been associated with ER. Polymorphic variations in the myosin light chain kinase, α-actin 3, creatine kinase–muscle isoform, angiotensin I-converting enzyme, heat shock protein, and interleukin-6 genes have also been associated with either ER or exercise-induced serum creatine kinase elevations typical of ER. The prognosis for ER is significantly better than that for other etiologies of rhabdomyolysis, but the risk of recurrence after an initial episode is unknown. Guidelines for management are provided.

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