Differential Diagnosis of Hypercalcemia

  • Bertini J
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The differential diagnosis of hypercalcemia has expanded to over 25 separate disease states, with primary hyperparathyroidism and malignancy accounting for 80-90% of all hypercalcemic patients. Primary hyperparathyroidism comprises the majority of hypercalcemic patients among the ambulatory population, but malignancy accounts for up to 65% of such patients in the hospital. Factors favoring primary hyperparathyroidism include a family history of hyperparathyroidism or multiple endocrine neoplasia, a history of childhood radiation to the head and neck, the postmenopausal state, a history of renal calculi or peptic ulcer, hypertension, the induction of hypercalcemia by thiazides, or an asymptomatic patient with a prolonged, stable mild hypercalcemia. The usefulness of the serum calcium, parathyroid hormone, chloride, phosphorus, serum 25-OHD, and 1,25-(OH)2D, and urinary calcium in the differential diagnosis of hypercalcemia is discussed. The pitfalls of an excessive reliance on the serum PTH in diagnosing hyperparathyroidism are stressed. The discriminant values of the serum calcium, chloride, phosphorus, and parathyroid hormone are explored, with the serum parathyroid hormone, chloride, and calcium proving most useful in separating primary hyperparathyroidism from other forms of hypercalcemia. Multivariate discriminant analysis using the serum calcium, phosphorus, and chloride and the hematocrit achieves an accuracy of 95-98% and is the most economical method of identifying hyperparathyroidism. The addition of the amino-terminal or intact PTH assay increases the accuracy to 99% and is essential in the presence of renal insufficiency.

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  • John E. Bertini

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