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Thyroid. 2012 Jun;22(6):651-3. doi: 10.1089/thy.2011.0136. Epub 2012 May 8.

Rapid development of anterotibial compartment syndrome and rhabdomyolysis in a patient with primary hypothyroidism and adrenal insufficiency.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Waitemata District Health Board, Auckland, New Zealand.



Anterior compartment syndrome (ACS) and rhabdomyolysis are rare complications of hypothyroid myopathy. We report the case of a young man with rapid onset of ACS who presented with simultaneous primary hypothyroidism and adrenal insufficiency associated with acute renal failure, hyponatremia, and hyperkalemia.


A 22-year-old man presenting with a one-month history of tiredness, hyperpigmentation, and cramps in his calves was found to have severe bilateral foot drop. Investigations revealed severe primary hypothyroidism and adrenal insufficiency, renal failure, and evidence of rhabdomyolysis with myoglobinuria. Abnormal biochemical findings included serum sodium of 110 mM, serum potassium of 6.9 mM, and serum creatine kinase (CK) of >25,000 IU/L. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of his legs showed changes of myonecrosis confined to anterior tibial muscles typical of ACS. After treatment with intravenous fluids, potassium-lowering therapies, thyroxine, and hydrocortisone, his renal and metabolic function returned to normal, but irreversible bilateral foot drop persisted.


A young man with primary hypothyroidism, adrenal insufficiency, hyponatremia, and hyperkalemia presented with severe myopathy, such that muscle necrosis, apparently confined to the anterior tibial compartment on MRI, led to rhabdomyolysis, acute renal failure, and irreversible bilateral peroneal nerve damage. It is possible that other patients with primary hypothyroidism and marked elevations of CK without widespread myopathy or rhabdomyolysis may demonstrate evidence of differential muscle effects in the anterior compartment when assessed by MRI, but that this patient also had adrenal insufficiency raises the possibility that this was a contributing factor.


Severe thyroid myopathy and rhabdomyolysis may be associated with anatomic susceptibility to ACS, particularly in the presence of concomitant adrenal insufficiency. MRI examination reveals a distinctive appearance of myonecrosis confined to the anterior compartment.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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