Abnormal liver function tests associated with severe rhabdomyolysis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleOtherpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Rhabdomyolysis is a syndrome of skeletal muscle injury with release of cellular constituents such as potassium, phosphate, urate and intracellular proteins such as myoglobin into the circulation, which may cause complications including acute kidney injury, electrolyte disturbance and cardiac instability. Abnormal liver function tests are frequently observed in cases of severe rhabdomyolysis. Typically, there is an increase in serum aminotransferases, namely aspartate aminotransferase and alanine aminotransferase. This raises the question of liver injury and often triggers a pathway of investigation which may lead to a liver biopsy. However, muscle can also be a source of the increased aminotransferase activity. This review discusses the dilemma of finding abnormal liver function tests in the setting of muscle injury and the potential implications of such an association. It delves into some of the clinical and experimental evidence for correlating muscle injury to raised aminotransferases, and discusses pathophysiological mechanisms such as oxidative stress which may cause actual liver injury. Serum aminotransferases lack tissue specificity to allow clinicians to distinguish primary liver injury from muscle injury. This review also explores potential approaches to improve the accuracy of our diagnostic tools, so that excessive or unnecessary liver investigations can be avoided.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1020-1028
Number of pages9
JournalWorld Journal of Gastroenterology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 14 Mar 2020


  • Alanine aminotransferase
  • Aminotransferases
  • Aspartate aminotransferase
  • Creatine kinase
  • Liver function tests
  • Muscle
  • Rhabdomyolysis

Cite this