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Vet Hum Toxicol. 1999 Dec;41(6):381-3.

Severe rhabdomyolysis following massive ingestion of oolong tea: caffeine intoxication with coexisting hyponatremia.

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Department of Emergency and Critical Care Medicine, Kitasato University, School of Medicine, Kanagawa, Japan.


A 36-y-o patient with schizophrenia, who had consumed gradually increasing quantities of oolong tea that eventually reached 15 L each day, became delirious and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. After abstinence from oolong tea his delirium resolved. He was transferred to our hospital when he was discovered to have acute renal failure with hyponatremia (118 mEq/L) and severe rhabdomyolysis (creatine phosphokinase, 227,200 IU/L). On admission rhabdomyolysis had begun to improve despite a worsening of the hyponatremia (113 mEq/L). With aggressive supportive therapy, including hypertonic saline administration and hemodialysis, the patient fully recovered without detectable sequelae. The clinical course suggests that caffeine, which is present in oolong tea, was mainly responsible for the rhabdomyolysis as well as the delirium, although severe hyponatremia has been reported to cause rhabdomyolysis on rare occasions. We hypothesize that caffeine toxicity injured the muscle cells, which were fragile due to the potassium depletion induced by the coexisting hyponatremia, to result in unusually severe rhabdomyolysis. The possibility of severe rhabdomyolysis should be considered in a patient with water intoxication due to massive ingestion of caffeine-containing beverages.

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