Rhabdomyolysis is a serious medical condition caused by the breakdown of skeletal muscle tissue.
Skeletal muscle is striated, or striped, muscle that attaches to and operates on the bones of the human body. It is different in structure and function from the cardiac muscle of the heart and the smooth muscles that line blood vessels and provide shape to many internal organs.
When skeletal muscle is severely damaged by injury—such as the trauma caused by a North Carolina motor vehicle accident—it leaks a protein called myoglobin into the bloodstream. Myoglobin is an organic compound related to hemoglobin. In fact, myoglobin is the protein that is mostly responsible for the red color of meat.
Like hemoglobin, myoglobin is an iron-containing substance that helps transport oxygen to cells. The important difference between them: myoglobin is normally confined within muscle tissue. It’s only found in the blood if a person has suffered a muscle injury, and blood tests that are positive for the presence of myoglobin alert doctors that a patient is seriously injured.
The dangers of myoglobin
If damaged skeletal muscle fibers leak myoglobin into the circulatory system, it’s the job of the kidneys to filter the substance out of the bloodstream. The kidneys concentrate the myoglobin and add it to the urine collecting in the bladder. Later, it’s emptied from the body. Problem solved, right?
Sadly, no. Myoglobin is poisonous to kidney cells. As the kidneys filter this protein out of the blood, the myoglobin breaks down into byproducts that can damage the kidneys permanently. This toxic effect is called rhabdomyolysis. Kidney failure is a possibility. Depending on the severity of the complication, saving the patient’s life may require kidney dialysis (either on a temporary or permanent basis) or a replacement kidney transplant.
The key symptom of rhabdomyolysis is unusual urine color, often described as “tea color”—dark brown or dark reddish brown. If kidney damage proceeds, this may be replaced with an inability to urinate within 12 to 24 hours. Other common symptoms are muscle aches, stiffness, or tenderness, generalized fatigue, joint pain, and seizures.
Rhabdomyolysis is most often treated by increasing the circulatory fluid levels, generally by administering an IV drip. Including bicarbonate compounds or diuretics in the drip can help protect the kidneys. Medical staff will also carefully monitor blood levels of potassium and calcium, which tend to be high and low, respectively, as a result of rhabdomyolysis.
You shouldn’t have to suffer this way
Rhabdomyolysis is a dangerous medical condition that is horribly expensive to treat. Physicians recognize that it is a potential consequence of North Carolina traffic injuries, especially crushing injuries.
If you have suffered a muscle injury after a New Hanover County vehicle accident that was not your fault, you may have a valid legal claim for the losses you have suffered—a claim that can reimburse you even for the huge medical bills from rhabdomyolysis. But you won’t know for sure until you talk to a lawyer. The Wilmington personal injury attorneys of Speaks Law Firm offer FREE and confidential consultations to new clients. Call us at 877-593-4233 and schedule an appointment, and we can tell you how we will go about getting you the maximum recovery available.