Clinical observations suggest that overt rhabdomyolysis may occur if severe hypophosphatemia is superimposed upon a pre-existing subclinical myopathy. To examine this possibility, a subclinical muscle cell injury was induced in 23 dogs by feeding them a phosphorus- and calorie-deficient diet until they lost 30% of their original weight. To induce acute, severe hypophosphatemia in the animals after partial starvation, 17 of the dogs were given large quantities of the same phosphorus-deficient diet in conjunction with an oral carbohydrate supplement, which together provided 140 kcal/kg per day. After phosphorus and caloric deprivation, serum phosphorus and creatine phosphokinase (CPK) activity were normal. Total muscle phosphorus content fell from 28.0 ± 1.3 to 26.1 ± 2.5 mmol/dg fat-free dry solids. Sodium, chloride, and water contents rose. These changes resembled those observed in patients with subclinical alcoholic myopathy. When studied after 3 days of hyperalimentation, the animals not receiving phosphorus showed weakness, tremulousness and in some cases, seizures. Serum phosphorus fell, the average lowest value was 0.8 mg/dl (P<0.001). CPK activity rose from 66 ± 357 to 695 ± 1,288 IU/liter (P<0.001). Muscle phosphorus content fell further to 21.1 ± 7.7 mmol/dg fat-free dry solids (P<0.001). Muscle Na and Cl contents became higher (P<0.01). Sections of gracilis muscle showed frank rhabdomyolsis. 6 of the 23 phosphorus- and calorie-deprived dogs were also given 140 kal/kg per day but in addition, each received 147 mmol of elemental phosphorus. These dogs consumed their diet avidly and displayed no symptoms. They did not become hypophosphatemic, their CPK remained normal, and derangements of cellular Na, Cl, and H2O were rapidly corrected. The gracilis muscle appeared normal histologically in these animals. These data suggest that a subclinical myopathy may set the stage for rhabdomyolysis if acute, severe hypophosphatemia is superimposed. Neither acute hypophosphatemia nor rhabdomyolysis occur if abundant phosphorus is provided during hyperalimentation.
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