UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Toxicology

Title: Rhabdo Prevalence

Keywords: Sympathomimetic toxicity, Synthetic cathinones, Rhabdomyolysis (PubMed Search)

Posted: 12/4/2014 by Kishan Kapadia, DO
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Sympathomimetic toxicity is a known toxidrome that is complicated by the development of rhabdomyolysis.  There are multiple stimulant agents that induce sympathomimetic toxicity including, synthetic cathinones, cocaine, amphetamines, and methamphetamines.  

A recent retrospective, single-center, chart review in the age range of 14-65 years sought to determine the prevalence of rhabdomyolysis in patients with sympathomimetic toxicity and compare rates among patients using specific agents.  Rhabdomyolysis and severe rhabdomyolysis were defined as CK>1000 and 10,000 IU/L, respectively.

Rhabdomyolysis occurred in 42% of study subjects (43/102)

Prevalence in 89 subjects due to a single-stimulant exposure:


1) Synthetic cathinone (MDPV, alpha-PVP) 63% (12/19)

2) Methamphetamine 40% (22/55)

3) Cocaine 33% (3/9)

4) Other single agents (methylphenidate, pseudoephedrine, phentermine) 0% (0/6)

Severe Rhabdomyolysis

1) Synthetic cathinone 26% (5/19)

2) Methamphetamine 3.6% (2/55)

3) Cocaine 11% (1/9)

4) Other single agents (methylphenidate, pseudoephedrine, phentermine) 0% (0/6)

In this study, patients exposed to synthetic cathinones were more likely to develop rhabdomyolysis and severe rhabdomyolysis compared to the non-cathinone-exposed group.

Bottom Line:

Be aware of this increased risk from synthetic cathinones along with other stimulants.  Treat aggressively with IV fluids, rapid correction of hyperthermia, benzodiazepines to control manifestations of sympathomimetic toxicity to reduce muscle activity and metabolic demand.



O'Connor AD, Padilla-Jones A, Gerkin AD, et al.  Prevalence of Rhabdomyolysis in Sympathomimetic Toxicity: a Comparison of Stimulants. J Med Toxicol 2014; Dec 3; Epub ahead of print.