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see also calcium


  • if plasma phosphate high:
    • if plasma PTH low:
      • hypoparathyroidism - idiopathic/post-surgical
    • if plasma PTH high:
      • chronic renal disease (secondary hyperPTH)
      • pseudohypoparathyroidism
  • plasma phosphate normal or low:
    • malabsorptive & nutritional Vit.D defic. (osteomalacia & rickets) (PTH high)
    • pancreatitis
    • hypomagnesaemia
    • over-hydration
  • if skeletal alkaline phosphatase raised
    • osteomalacia/rickets/ch.renal failure
    • “hungry bones” (eg. recent hyperthyroidism and now hypocalcaemia post-thyroidectomy with inadvertent parathyroidectomy, may require massive calcium/calcitriol therapy!!)
  • neonatal causes

clinical features:

  • tetany, depression, perioral paraesthesiae, 
  • Trousseau's sign: carpo-pedal spasm (esp. if blood pressure cuff inflated)
  • Chvostek's sign: facial muscle twitching when tap facial nerve over parotid
  • prolonged QTc
  • seizures
  • arrythmias
  • hypotension

investigation of hypocalcaemia:

  • ECG - look for prolonged QTc
  • take blood for U&E, Ca, PO4, albumen, Mg, looking for:
  • if hypocalcaemic 1) on corrected calcium, then:
    • if phosphate raised: 
      • take blood for PTH
      • check renal function
    • if phosphate normal or low: 
      • take blood for alkaline phosphatase, +/- amylase, plasma 25-OH-vit D
      • excl. malabsorption and over-hydration
      • if plasma 25-OH-vit D very low → osteomalacia/rickets → skel. survey


  • adult bolus dose iv 10% calcium gluconate (10ml over 3min, rpt prn) is generally only warranted for Rx of hyperkalaemia in absence of digoxin toxicity and patient is in cardiac arrest or has significant ECG changes
  • in patients in cardiac arrest, calcium chloride boluses are preferred over calcium gluconate as 10% calcium chloride gives 3x the amount of elemental calcium as does 10% calcium gluconate
  • MAXIMUM DAILY DOSE SHOULD NOT EXCEED 15g CALCIUM GLUCONATE (ie 15 ampoules) unless special circumstances such as post parathyroidectomy patients with renal failure, where there is a substantial need for intravenous calcium sometimes up to 12g (>26 mmol) per 12 hours.
  • Rx choice should be governed by rate of change, rather than absolute levels
  • extravasation of calcium gluconate may lead to tissue necrosis
  • monitor for phlebitis
  • infusions of calcium gluconate MUST be given via an infusion device (eg. iMed)
  • use calcium gluconate cautiously in patients with impaired renal function, cardiac disease or sarcoidosis
  • increased fluid intake is recommended for patients prone to formation of calculi in the urinary tract
  • calcium gluconate may increase effects of digoxin and precipitate digoxin toxicity
  • corrected calcium does not necessarily reflect physiologic activity, an ionised calcium should be ordered if there is doubt clinically

emergency Mx of severe symptomatic hypocalcaemia in adults:

  • ie. corrected serum calcium less than 1.8mmol/L with cramps, paraesthesiae, or prolonged QTc
  • take blood for U&E, Ca, PO4, albumen, Mg
  • ECG - look for prolonged QTc
  • cardiac monitor
  • check ionised calcium level on ABG or VBG and repeat 4-6hrly, particularly if albumin is low
  • iv rehydration
  • initial dosing: dilute 1g (2.2 mmols) calcium gluconate in 100 mL fluid (NS, Hartmann's or 5% dextrose) and administer over 15 minutes via a large bore peripheral cannula or via CVC
    • alternatively, 3 ampoules 10% calcium gluconate (6.4mmol total) to be given over 30min, although this may cause flushing and there is a risk of hypotension, bradycardia, arrythmias and potentially cardiac arrest with rapid infusions and thus is rarely warranted, and should only be given under advice of a consultant for this indication.
  • ongoing symptoms, further infusion as for asymptomatic hypocalcaemia below
  • admit for Ix & ongoing Mx under endocrine unit

emergency mx of severe asymptomatic hypocalcaemia in adults

  • corrected serum calcium less than 1.8mmol/L
  • take blood for U&E, Ca, PO4, albumen, Mg
  • check ionised calcium level on ABG or VBG 12hrly
    • remember acidosis increases ionised calcium whereas alkalosis decreases ionised calcium
  • ECG - look for prolonged QTc
  • cardiac monitor
  • iv rehydration
  • generally correct severe hypomagnesaemia or hypokalaemia first, although sulphate ions in magnesium sulphate may bind calcium exacerbating hypocalcaemia
  • dilute 5 g (11 mmol) calcium gluconate in 1 litre of fluid and administer via large bore peripheral line over 12 hours
    • faster rates can be given on advice of endocrine, nephrology, ICU consultant
  • alternatively, for those patients with a CVC:
    • dilute 5 g (11 mmols) calcium gluconate in 110 mL of fluid
      • withdraw 40 mL from 100 mL bag of appropriate fluid and add 50mL calcium gluconate to obtain a final volume of 110 mLs
    • infuse at 1 mmol per hour = 10 mL /hour

Mx of moderate hypocalcaemia in adults

  • corrected serum calcium 1.8mmol/L - 2.0mmol/L
  • oral Caltrate 600mg, two tablets bd away from meals is usually preferable to iv infusion unless hypocalcaemia is rapidly progressive or oral medications are C/I.

Mx of mild hypocalcaemia in adults as outpatient:

  • corrected serum calcium > 2.0mmol/L
  • calcium 5mmol 6h po
  • daily calcium levels
  • hypoPTH → calcium + calcitriol
    • patients with hypocalcemia due to resistance to parathyroid hormone (PTH) generally will require long-term therapy with vitamin D and calcium supplementation
  • osteomalacia/rickets → Ix & Rx cause, ergocalciferol
  • CRF → Ix & Rx on merits, phosphate restriction +/- calcium & calcitriol;
    • patients with hypocalcemia associated with chronic renal failure often require phosphate binders and vitamin D supplementation
hypocalcemic, hypocalcemia
hypocalcaemia.txt · Last modified: 2013/12/20 03:48 by

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