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Sophie Bondje Lister Hospital, Stevenage, UK

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Camilla Barnes Lister Hospital, Stevenage, UK

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Felicity Kaplan Lister Hospital, Stevenage, UK

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Summary

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 (1).

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

  • 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 (2).

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.

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S Hamidi Division of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine, Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont, Montréal, Canada

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S Mottard Division of Orthopedic Surgery, Department of Surgery, Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont, Montréal, Canada

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M J Berthiaume Department of Radiology, Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont, Montréal, Canada

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J Doyon Department of Pathology, Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont, Montréal, Canada

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M J Bégin Division of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine, Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont, Montréal, Canada

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L Bondaz Division of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine, Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont, Montréal, Canada

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Summary

Brown tumors (BTs) are expansile osteolytic lesions complicating severe primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT). Clinical, radiological and histological features of BTs share many similarities with other giant cell-containing lesions of the bone, which can make their diagnosis challenging. We report the case of a 32-year-old man in whom an aggressive osteolytic lesion of the iliac crest was initially diagnosed as a giant cell tumor by biopsy. The patient was scheduled for surgical curettage, with a course of neoadjuvant denosumab. Routine biochemical workup prior to denosumab administration incidentally revealed high serum calcium levels. The patient was diagnosed with PHPT and a parathyroid adenoma was identified. In light of these findings, histological slices of the iliac lesion were reviewed and diagnosis of a BT was confirmed. Follow-up CT-scans performed 2 and 7 months after parathyroidectomy showed regression and re-ossification of the bone lesion. The aim of this case report is to underline the importance of distinguishing BTs from other giant cell-containing lesions of the bone and to highlight the relevance of measuring serum calcium as part of the initial evaluation of osteolytic bone lesions. This can have a major impact on patients’ management and can prevent unnecessary invasive surgical interventions.

Learning points:

  • Although rare, brown tumors should always be considered in the differential diagnosis of osteolytic giant cell-containing bone lesions.

  • Among giant cell-containing lesions of the bone, the main differential diagnoses of brown tumors are giant cell tumors and aneurysmal bone cysts.

  • Clinical, radiological and histological characteristics can be non-discriminating between brown tumors and giant cell tumors. One of the best ways to distinguish these two diagnoses appears to be through biochemical workup.

  • Differentiating brown tumors from giant cell tumors and aneurysmal bone cysts is crucial in order to ensure better patient care and prevent unnecessary morbid surgical interventions.

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