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What Does it Mean to Have a High CPK Level?

By Dmitry Rashnitsov ; Updated July 27, 2017

Creatine phosphokinase (CPK) is an enzyme that can be found in the heart, brain and skeletal muscle. A high level of CPK is not a good sign and is an indicator of heart attacks, strokes and other serious diseases. However some prescription drugs and other substances can cause levels of CPK to increase.

How CPK is Tested

CPK levels are tested in the blood. A doctor or nurse will draw blood from the patient and send it off to the laboratory for testing. This test may be ordered up to three times a day for patients who are in the hospital. People who have recently consumed alcohol, aspirin or used the drug cocaine will almost certainly have increased levels of CPK. Other drugs that can cause the level to rise include: amphotericin B, ampicillin, anesthetics, blood thinners, clofibrate, dexamethasone and furosemide.

Sometimes athletes who are in training or on special diets will have high levels due to the stress they are putting their body under to compete.

A level above 250 is considered abnormal.

Major Reasons CPK is High

If a patient has not consumed any of the above substances or drugs, this means that their CPK level is elevated because or an injury or stress to the brain, heart or one of the muscle tissues. This is because an injury will cause the CPK to leak into the bloodstream. Other factors will help determine what may have caused the CPK level to elevate. If a patient complains of chest pain matched with a high number, than a heart attack might be diagnosed. Pericarditis following a heart attack is also a probable cause. Also high CPK levels are early warnings of the muscle diseases dermatomyositis and polymyositis. Any brain injuries or strokes will also elevate levels.

Other Reasons CPK is High

If doctors have ruled out that a patient's CPK levels are not high from an outside substance, heart attack or stroke, then doctors will need to evaluate other causes such as lung tissue disease, electrical shock, hypothermia or post-operation infection.

Finally, any muscular dystrophies will be noticed with the bloodstream test.

Treatments for a high CPK can vary just from waiting for the levels to come down if they were created by a substance, to surgery and prescription of medication. Once high CPK levels are determined, additional tests will be ordered.

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