Electrolyte quintet: Calcium

Lancet. 1998 Jul 25;352(9124):306-11. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(97)12331-5.


Abnormalities in serum calcium concentration may have profound effects on neurological, gastrointestinal, and renal function. Maintenance of the normal serum calcium is a result of tightly regulated ion transport by the kidney, intestinal tract, and bone, mediated by calcaemic hormones especially parathyroid hormone and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3. Abnormalities in calcium transport that result in uncompensated influx into, or efflux from, the extracellular fluid, will result in hypercalcaemia or hypocalcaemia, respectively. When possible the biologically important ionised calcium concentration should be measured. A variety of common disorders are responsible for abnormalities in the serum calcium. Treatment of both hypercalcaemia and hypocalcaemia is dependent on the underlying disorder, the magnitude of the deviation of the serum calcium, and the severity of symptoms. Fortunately, in the case of hypercalcaemia, there is a broad selection of effective medications, especially the bisphosphonates. Treatment of hypocalcaemia relies on the provision of calcium and often vitamin D. In this article we review the mechanisms responsible for abnormalities in calcium homoeostasis, the differential diagnosis of hypercalcaemia and hypocalcaemia, and appropriate therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Calcium* / metabolism
  • Calcium* / physiology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Hypercalcemia* / diagnosis
  • Hypercalcemia* / drug therapy
  • Hypocalcemia* / diagnosis
  • Hypocalcemia* / drug therapy


  • Calcium