How would you determine the aetiology of severe hypercalcaemia? List the treatments appropriate for each aetiology.
Major causes of hypercalcaemia are: Increased calcium release from bone
• erosion of bone (malignant neoplasms eg. lung, breast, haematologic (include multiple myeloma), head & neerenal, prostate)
• release of calcium from bone with immobilization
. • humoral stimulation of calcium release (mainly PTH but also other hoonones)
Increased calcium intake
• calcium supplements.milk alkali syndrome
Both of these are augmented by the presence of renal impairment.
Aetiology determined by combination of history.examination and investigations.
History and Examination
• clinical features relate to symptoms due to hypercalcaemia (protean) and those due
underlying cause (specific or general of malignancy, immobilization, diet and medications)
• to confirm malignancy or bony involvement (Xrays of chest, spine etc.)
• to assess bone turnover (alkaline phosphatase, urinary hydroxyproline)
• to assess level of PTII
Treatment is dependent on underlying aetiology, but general measures are aimed at minimising calcium entry into and maximising exit from the circulation :
1. Increased calcium excretion
• volume resuscitation to restore intravascular volume and tissue perfusion (usually normal saline, also inhibits calcium reabsorption in renal tubule)
• frusemide (increase calcium filtration and decreased reabsorption). Aim? 200-300 m1/hr.
2. Reducing calcium release
• biphosphonates (eg. etidronate) are absorbed to hydroxyapatite crystals and inhibit bone resorption and formation and inhibit osteoclast activity. Administered intravenously; onset of action 24-48 hours.
• calcitonin is less effective. Inhibits osteoclast activity and increases calcium excretion.
Parenteral administration but faster onset of .11ction (6-24 hours).
• plicamycin, gallium also used. Inorganic phosphate may be effective (multiple mechanisms)
but risks calcium precipitation
• glucocorticoids useful in some scenarios (excess intake or production of Vit D;
haematologic malignancies [tumouricidal effects])
• correction of other electrolyte abnormalities (eg. K, Mg)
• removal of offending drugs (eg. thiazides, Vitamins A & D, calcium)
• restriction of calcium intake
• mobilisation (to reduce calcium release from bone)
This question closely resembles Question 7 from the first paper of 2001 (A patient is admitted to ICU because of severe symptomatic hypercalcaemia. List the manifestations and common causes) and Question 9 from the second paper of 2013 (List the clinical features of severe symptomatic hypercalcaemia and outline the treatment of this condition).
Question 18.1 from the the first paper of 2011 also deals with hypercalcaemia of malignancy, but in the context of a clinical scenario.
Primary endocrine causes
Random miscellaneous causes
Early manifestations (levels < 3.5mmol/L)
Late manifestations (levels over 3.5mmol/L)
Causes such as renal failure and prolonged immobility can usually be ruled out (or in) immediately after meeting the patient. Similarly, one can easily look at their drugs and see whether something iatrogenic is responsible. Then, one is left with primary endocrine disturbances and malignancy.
Thus, one may wish to launch the following investigations:
UpToDate has a nice chapter on this topic, for the paying customer.
Stewart, Andrew F. "Hypercalcemia associated with cancer." New England Journal of Medicine 352.4 (2005): 373-379.
Zawada Jr, E. T., D. B. Lee, and C. R. Kleeman. "Causes of hypercalcemia."Postgraduate medicine 66.4 (1979): 91-7.
Shane, Elizabeth, and I. Dinaz. "Hypercalcemia: pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, differential diagnosis, and management." Primer on the Metabolic Bone Diseases and Disorders of Mineral Metabolism, Favus MJ (ed.). Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams &Wilkins (1999): 183-87.
Endres, David B. "Investigation of hypercalcemia." Clinical biochemistry 45.12 (2012): 954-963.