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Open access

Sophie Bondje, Camilla Barnes, and Felicity Kaplan


Milk–alkali syndrome (MAS) is a triad of hypercalcaemia, metabolic alkalosis and renal insufficiency. In this study, we present a case of milk–alkali syndrome secondary to concurrent use of over-the-counter (OTC) calcium carbonate-containing antacid tablets (Rennie®) for dyspepsia and calcium carbonate with vitamin D3 (Adcal D3) for osteoporosis. A 72-year-old woman presented with a 2-day history of nausea, vomiting, epigastric pain, constipation, lethargy and mild delirium. Past medical history included osteoporosis treated with daily Adcal D3. Initial blood tests showed elevated serum-adjusted calcium of 3.77 mmol/L (normal range, 2.2–2.6) and creatinine of 292 µmol/L (45–84) from a baseline of 84. This was corrected with i.v. pamidronate and i.v. fluids. She developed asymptomatic hypocalcaemia and rebound hyperparathyroidism. Myeloma screen, vasculitis screen and serum angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) were normal, while the CT of the chest, abdomen and pelvis showed renal stones but no malignancy. A bone marrow biopsy showed no evidence of malignancy. Once the delirium resolved, we established that prior to admission, she had been excessively self-medicating with over-the-counter antacids (Rennie®) as required for epigastric pain. The increasing use of calcium preparations for the management of osteoporosis in addition to easily available OTC dyspepsia preparations has made MAS the third most common cause of hypercalcaemia hospitalisations. Educating patients and healthcare professionals on the risks associated with these seemingly safe medications is required. Appropriate warning labels on both calcium preparations used in the management of osteoporosis and OTC calcium-containing preparations would prevent further similar cases and unnecessary morbidity and hospital admission.

Learning points

What is known?

  • An association between high-dose calcium supplementation and hypercalcaemia crisis has been seen in case studies.

  • After as little as 1 week of excessive calcium carbonate ingestion, patients can present with symptomatic hypercalcemia, acute renal failure and metabolic alkalosis ().

  • Women aged 50 and younger need 1 g of calcium per day, while aged 51 and older need 1.2 g ().

  • Although the amount of calcium required for MAS is generally thought to be more than 4 g per day, there have been reports at intakes as low as 1.0–1.5 g per day in pre-existing risk factors including renal impairment ().

What this study adds?

  • The danger of excessive ingestion of antacid is not adequately highlighted to prescribers and patients.

  • Appropriate warning labels on OTC calcium-containing preparations could prevent unnecessary morbidity and hospital admission.

Open access

Aditi Sharma, Thilipan Thaventhiran, Suzanne Braggins, Channa N Jayasena, and Vassiliki Bravis


Infection is a common complication of advanced diabetic foot disease, increasing the risk of acute admission and amputation. It is less well-known that foot ulceration and osteomyelitis may cause bacteraemia-associated hematogenous seeding and subsequent epidural abscess formation. Here we describe the case of a 57-year-old woman with known diabetic foot ulcer with underlying osteomyelitis admitted with backpain in the absence of trauma. Her condition deteriorated secondary to overwhelming sepsis. MRI of the spine confirmed spondylodiscitis and posterior epidural collection, not amenable to surgical intervention due to patient’s comorbidities and high surgical risk. Despite prolonged antibiotic therapy, the patient died following a hospital admission lasting 2.5 months. This case highlights the importance of regular contact with diabetes foot service for optimisation and prompt treatment of diabetic foot disease, which can be an underestimated potential source of remote site invasive systemic infection. Secondly, high clinical suspicion in admitting clinicians is imperative in ensuring timely diagnosis and early intervention to minimise fatal consequences.

Learning points:

  • Approximately 10% of patients with diabetes will develop a foot ulcer in their lifetime.

  • Spondylodiscitis (incorporating vertebral osteomyelitis, spondylitis and discitis) is a rare condition and diabetes is the most common predisposing risk factor.

  • Spondylodiscitis often presents with no other symptom other than back pain. Neurological or infective symptoms can be present or absent.

  • High clinical suspicion in clinicians is imperative in ensuring timely diagnosis and early intervention to minimise devastating consequences.

Open access

Ravikumar Ravindran, Justyna Witczak, Suhani Bahl, Lakdasa D K E Premawardhana, and Mohamed Adlan


A 53-year-old man who used growth hormone (GH), anabolic steroids and testosterone (T) for over 20 years presented with severe constipation and hypercalcaemia. He had benign prostatic hyperplasia and renal stones but no significant family history. Investigations showed – (1) corrected calcium (reference range) 3.66 mmol/L (2.2–2.6), phosphate 1.39 mmol/L (0.80–1.50), and PTH 2 pmol/L (1.6–7.2); (2) urea 21.9 mmol/L (2.5–7.8), creatinine 319 mmol/L (58–110), eGFR 18 mL/min (>90), and urine analysis (protein 4+, glucose 4+, red cells 2+); (3) creatine kinase 7952 U/L (40–320), positive anti Jo-1, and Ro-52 antibodies; (4) vitamin D 46 nmol/L (30–50), vitamin D3 29 pmol/L (55–139), vitamin A 4.65 mmol/L (1.10–2.60), and normal protein electrophoresis; (5) normal CT thorax, abdomen and pelvis and MRI of muscles showed ‘inflammation’, myositis and calcification; (6) biopsy of thigh muscles showed active myositis, chronic myopathic changes and mineral deposition and of the kidneys showed positive CD3 and CD45, focal segmental glomerulosclerosis and hypercalcaemic tubular changes; and (7) echocardiography showed left ventricular hypertrophy (likely medications and myositis contributing), aortic stenosis and an ejection fraction of 44%, and MRI confirmed these with possible right coronary artery disease. Hypercalcaemia was possibly multifactorial – (1) calcium release following myositis, rhabdomyolysis and acute kidney injury; (2) possible primary hyperparathyroidism (a low but detectable PTH); and (3) hypervitaminosis A. He was hydrated and given pamidronate, mycophenolate and prednisolone. Following initial biochemical and clinical improvement, he had multiple subsequent admissions for hypercalcaemia and renal deterioration. He continued taking GH and T despite counselling but died suddenly of a myocardial infarction.

Learning points:

  • The differential diagnosis of hypercalcaemia is sometimes a challenge.

  • Diagnosis may require multidisciplinary expertise and multiple and invasive investigations.

  • There may be several disparate causes for hypercalcaemia, although one usually predominates.

  • Maintaining ‘body image’ even with the use of harmful drugs may be an overpowering emotion despite counselling about their dangers.

Open access

Eseoghene Ifie, Samson O Oyibo, Hareesh Joshi, and Olugbenro O Akintade


Iron (ferric carboxymaltose) infusion therapy is used to treat severe iron deficiency which is not responding to the first-line oral iron therapy. However, it can also cause severe renal wasting of phosphate resulting in severe hypophosphataemia in some patients. Despite the growing number of case reports, this side effect is not well known to healthcare professionals. The product labelling information sheet does mention that hypophosphataemia can be a side effect, but also says that this side effect is usually transient and asymptomatic. We report a challenging case of a patient who developed severe, symptomatic and prolonged hypophosphataemia after an intravenous iron infusion for severe iron deficiency.

Learning points:

  • Clinicians prescribing ferric carboxymaltose (Ferinject®) should be aware of the common side effect of hypophosphataemia, which could be mild, moderate or severe.

  • Patients receiving iron infusion should be educated concerning this potential side effect.

  • Pre-existing vitamin D deficiency, low calcium levels, low phosphate levels or raised parathyroid hormone levels may be risk factors, and these should be evaluated and corrected before administering intravenous iron.

  • Patients may require phosphate and vitamin D replacement along with monitoring for a long period after iron infusion-induced hypophosphataemia.

  • Every incident should be reported to the designated body so that the true prevalence and management thereof can be ascertained.