What is the utility of urine dipstick for blood in diagnosing rhabdomyolysis?

Although the dipstick method of detecting blood in the urine is convenient, it cannot differentiate between hemoglobin, myoglobin, or red blood cells. 1

Several reviews suggest that urine myoglobin is unstable with subpar performance in rhabdomyolysis1, often defined as creatine kinase (CK) elevation 5 times the upper limit of normal in the proper context (eg, crush injury, hypoxic/ischemic or drug injury). A sensitivity of 71% and a specificity of 54% for urine hemoglobin by dipstick, and a sensitivity of 25% and specificity of 75%  for urine myoglobin  has been reported in patients with serum CK >10,000 U/L. 3  

So while a positive dipstick for blood with few or no RBCs in the urine may make us think about rhabdomyolysis, its absence should not be used to exclude it in a susceptible host.

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that consumption of quail has been associated with rhabdomyolysis, possibly due to their feeding on poisonous plants such as hemlock?

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  1. Rodriguez-Capote Karina, Balion CM, Hill SA, et al. Utility of urine myoglobin for the prediction of acute renal failure in patients with suspected rhabdomyolysis: A systematic review. Clin Chem 2009;55:2190-97. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19797717
  2. Nance JR, Mammen AL. Diagnostic evaluation of rhabdomyolysis. Muscle Nerve 2015;51:793-810. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25678154
  3. Grover DS, Atta MG, Eustace JA, et al. Lack of clinical utility of urine myoglobin detection by microconcentrator ultrafiltration in the diagnosis of rhabdomyolysis. Nephrol Dial Transplant 2004;19:2634-38. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15280520
What is the utility of urine dipstick for blood in diagnosing rhabdomyolysis?

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