Milk-alkali syndrome in patients treated with calcium carbonate after cardiac transplantation

Arch Intern Med. 1986 Oct;146(10):1965-8.


Heart and heart-lung transplant recipients at Stanford (Calif) University Medical Center were routinely prescribed long-term calcium carbonate antacid therapy to aid in the prevention of peptic ulcer disease and osteoporosis associated with glucocorticoid immunosuppressive therapy. Patients consumed 4 to more than 10 g/d of elemental calcium. Since calcium carbonate also provides the essential ingredients for the development of the milk-alkali syndrome, the laboratory flow sheets of 297 heart and heart-lung transplant recipients were reviewed to examine the incidence of hypercalcemia. Sixty-five patients developed significant hypercalcemia after transplantation. Thirty-one patients were alkalotic at the time of hypercalcemia; 37 had impairment in renal function. It is likely that most of these patients had the milk-alkali syndrome. While most patients became eucalcemic by discontinuing calcium carbonate therapy, intravenous hydration and forced diuresis were used to treat severe cases. It is possible that the incidence of the milk-alkali syndrome will increase with the current popularity of prescribing calcium carbonate for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Calcium Carbonate / adverse effects*
  • Calcium Carbonate / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Heart Transplantation*
  • Humans
  • Hypercalcemia / chemically induced*
  • Male
  • Osteoporosis / prevention & control
  • Peptic Ulcer / prevention & control
  • Postoperative Care


  • Calcium Carbonate