Hypocalcemia: updates in diagnosis and management for primary care

Can Fam Physician. 2012 Feb;58(2):158-62.


Objective: To provide family physicians with an evidence-based approach to the diagnosis and management of hypocalcemia. Quality of evidence MEDLINE and EMBASE articles from 2000 to 2010 were searched, with a focus on the diagnosis and management of hypocalcemia. Levels of evidence (I to III) were cited where appropriate, with most studies providing level II or III evidence. References of pertinent papers were also searched for relevant articles. Main message Chronic hypocalcemia is commonly due to inadequate levels of parathyroid hormone or vitamin D, or due to resistance to these hormones. Treatment focuses on oral calcium and vitamin D supplements, as well as magnesium if deficiency is present. Treatment can be further intensified with thiazide diuretics, phosphate binders, and a low-salt and low-phosphorus diet when treating hypocalcemia secondary to hypoparathyroidism. Acute and life-threatening calcium deficit requires treatment with intravenous calcium.The current treatment recommendations are largely based on expert clinical opinion and published case reports,as adequately controlled clinical trial data are not currently available. Complications of current therapies for hypoparathyroidism include hypercalciuria, nephrocalcinosis, renal impairment, and soft tissue calcification. Current therapy is limited by serum calcium fluctuations. Although these complications are well recognized, the effects of therapy on overall well-being, mood, cognition, and quality of life, as well as the risk of complications,have not been adequately studied.

Conclusion: Family physicians play a crucial role in educating patients about the long-term management and complications of hypocalcemia. Currently, management is suboptimal and marked by fluctuations in serum calcium and a lack of approved parathyroid hormone replacement therapy for hypoparathyroidism.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Calcium / therapeutic use
  • Chronic Disease
  • Diet Therapy
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Humans
  • Hypocalcemia* / diagnosis
  • Hypocalcemia* / etiology
  • Hypocalcemia* / therapy
  • Magnesium / therapeutic use
  • Primary Health Care
  • Vitamin D / therapeutic use
  • Vitamins / therapeutic use


  • Vitamins
  • Vitamin D
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium