Repeatedly in rhabdomyolysis

Catherine Gooch, Sarah Joy Dean, Laurie Marzullo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Repeated presentations of a rare symptom in a patient should make a physician stop and evaluate for rare conditions. This is a report of a teenager with multiple episodes of rhabdomyolysis and weakness. He was eventually diagnosed as having McArdle muscular dystrophy, or glycogen storage disease type V. His rhabdomyolysis has been severe, with a creatinine kinase level of >320,000 U/L, myoglobinuria, transaminitis, and elevated bilirubin. He has a low threshold for triggering rhabdomyolysis, such as doing an hour of aerobic exercise 2 days in a row. McArdle disease is a glycogen storage disorder in which the skeletal muscle cannot convert glycogen to glucose. Unlike other glycogen storage disorders, McArdle muscular dystrophy only affects the skeletal muscle, sparing the brain and visceral organs, leading to a vague phenotype. These patients have exercise intolerance, muscle cramps, and rhabdomyolysis. Many patients report loading with simple carbohydrates before exercise, as they have learned that this can increase their stamina. The vague symptoms can lead to decades of delay in diagnosis and significant mismanagement. Rhabdomyolysis is the most dangerous sign of McArdle disease, and it can lead to acute kidney injury, resulting in renal failure requiring dialysis in the severest cases. Rhabdomyolysis has numerous causes, but when it is recurrent, especially with seemingly insignificant triggers, one needs to develop a broader differential and pursue advanced testing. This testing can include specific exercise tests, genetic sequencing, and muscle biopsy. This case report will guide the clinician through the process of evaluating recurrent rhabdomyolysis, working through the differential diagnosis and testing options.1

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E1759-E1760
JournalPediatric emergency care
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021


  • McArdle muscular dystrophy
  • Metabolic disease
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Rhabdomyolysis


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