To study Ca metabolism in critically ill children, we measured ionized Ca (Ca2+), parathyroid hormone (PTH), calcitonin, 25 hydroxycholecalciferol (25[OH] D3), 1-25 dihydroxycholecalciferol (1-25[OH]2D3, and gastrin levels in critically ill children and in healthy controls. Patients were considered hypocalcemic if Ca2+ was less than 1.1 mmol/L. Six (14%) of 45 patients were hypocalcemic. Five hypocalcemic patients were studied and were found to have higher calcitonin levels than normocalcemic patients and healthy controls and higher PTH levels than healthy controls. 25(OH)D3 and 1-25(OH)2D3 were not significantly different in the three groups of patients. Gastrin levels were low in critically ill patients, whether or not they were hypocalcemic. We conclude that hypocalcemia occurs frequently in critically ill children. It is associated with raised levels of calcitonin and PTH. The mechanism for the increase in calcitonin is unknown.