Medical management of hypercalcaemia

Br J Clin Pharmacol. 1992 Jul;34(1):11-20. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2125.1992.tb04101.x.


1. Hypercalcaemia is a common disorder, which frequently requires specific treatment either to control symptoms, or to prevent the development of irreversible organ damage or death. Although the best and most effective way of controlling hypercalcaemia in the long-term is to treat the underlying cause, medical antihypercalcaemic therapy is often required in clinical practice, either as a holding measure, or because the primary disease cannot itself be treated. 2. The mainstays of medical antihypercalcaemic therapy are firstly, to promote calcium excretion by the kidney by restoring extracellular volume with intravenous saline and secondly, to administer pharmacological agents which inhibit bone resorption. Measures which seek to reduce intestinal calcium absorption are seldom effective. 3. Intravenous bisphosphonates are the treatment of first choice for the initial management of hypercalcaemia, followed by continued oral, or repeated intravenous bisphosphonates to prevent relapse. These drugs have a relatively slow onset of action (1-3 days) but have potent and sustained inhibitory effects on bone resorption, resulting in a long duration of action (12-30 days). 4. Of the other agents available, calcitonin has an important place in the management of severe hypercalcaemia where a rapid effect is desirable; calcitonin is best used in conjunction with a bisphosphonate however, because of its short duration of action. Intravenous phosphate also has a place in the emergency management of severe hypercalcaemia, but is probably best reserved for patients in whom other less toxic therapies have failed. Corticosteroids are generally ineffective except in certain specific instances and are best avoided in the routine treatment of undiagnosed hypercalcaemia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bone Resorption
  • Calcitonin / therapeutic use*
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Diphosphonates / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Hypercalcemia / drug therapy*
  • Hypercalcemia / etiology
  • Hypercalcemia / physiopathology


  • Diphosphonates
  • Calcitonin
  • Calcium