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What is creatine phosphokinase (CPK)?


Answers From Experts & Organizations (1)

Internal Medicine
Emory University
131 Answers
92,310 Helpful Votes

CPK stands for creatine phosphokinase. It’s an enzyme found in high concentrations in muscles, where it facilitates muscle contraction. CPK is also called creatine kinase or CK.

Doctors may check CPK when there’s concern for muscle damage or breakdown:

  • In a rare condition called rhabdomyolysis, extreme muscle breakdown floods the blood with CPK and other chemicals in muscle cells. Some of these are toxic to the kidneys, making the condition dangerous. Doctors may repeatedly check CPK levels in people with suspected rhabdomyolysis, to assess any potential risk to the kidneys.
  • People taking cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins sometimes have increases in CPK levels as a side effect of the medication. 
  • The heart is made of muscle, and during a heart attack, CPK leaks out of the heart, along with other enzymes. A doctor may check CPK repeatedly over time in someone she suspects may be having a heart attack. Troponin, another enzyme present in the heart, is often relied on more for this purpose than is CPK.

CPK may be slightly elevated in many people after exercise or due to unclear reasons.

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