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Open access

Carmina Teresa Fuss, Stephanie Burger-Stritt, Silke Horn, Ann-Cathrin Koschker, Kathrin Frey, Almuth Meyer and Stefanie Hahner

Summary

Standard treatment of hypoparathyroidism consists of supplementation of calcium and vitamin D analogues, which does not fully restore calcium homeostasis. In some patients, hypoparathyroidism is refractory to standard treatment with persistent low serum calcium levels and associated clinical complications. Here, we report on three patients (58-year-old male, 52-year-old female, and 48-year-old female) suffering from severe treatment-refractory postsurgical hypoparathyroidism. Two patients had persistent hypocalcemia despite oral treatment with up to 4 µg calcitriol and up to 4 g calcium per day necessitating additional i.v. administration of calcium gluconate 2–3 times per week, whereas the third patient presented with high frequencies of hypocalcemic and treatment-associated hypercalcemic episodes. S.c. administration of rhPTH (1–34) twice daily (40 µg/day) or rhPTH (1–84) (100 µg/day) only temporarily increased serum calcium levels but did not lead to long-term stabilization. In all three cases, treatment with rhPTH (1–34) as continuous s.c. infusion via insulin pump was initiated. Normalization of serum calcium and serum phosphate levels was observed within 1 week at daily 1–34 parathyroid hormone doses of 15 µg to 29.4 µg. Oral vitamin D and calcium treatment could be stopped or reduced and regular i.v. calcium administration was no more necessary. Ongoing efficacy of this treatment has been documented for up to 7 years so far. Therefore, we conclude that hypoparathyroidism that is refractory to both conventional treatment and s.c. parathyroid hormone (single or twice daily) may be successfully treated with continuous parathyroid hormone administration via insulin pump.

Learning points:

  • Standard treatment of hypoparathyroidism still consists of administration of calcium and active vitamin D.
  • Very few patients with hypoparathyroidism also do not respond sufficiently to standard treatment or administration of s.c. parathyroid hormone once or twice daily.
  • In those cases, continuous s.c. administration of parathyroid hormone via insulin pump may represent a successful treatment alternative.
Open access

Mawson Wang, Catherine Cho, Callum Gray, Thora Y Chai, Ruhaida Daud and Matthew Luttrell

Summary

We report the case of a 65-year-old female who presented with symptomatic hypercalcaemia (corrected calcium of 4.57 mmol/L) with confusion, myalgias and abdominal discomfort. She had a concomitant metabolic alkalosis (pH 7.46, HCO3 - 40 mmol/L, pCO2 54.6 mmHg). A history of significant Quick-Eze use (a calcium carbonate based antacid) for abdominal discomfort, for 2 weeks prior to presentation, suggested a diagnosis of milk-alkali syndrome (MAS). Further investigations did not demonstrate malignancy or primary hyperparathyroidism. Following management with i.v. fluid rehydration and a single dose of i.v. bisphosphonate, she developed symptomatic hypocalcaemia requiring oral and parenteral calcium replacement. She was discharged from the hospital with stable biochemistry on follow-up. This case demonstrates the importance of a detailed history in the diagnosis of severe hypercalcaemia, with MAS representing the third most common cause of hypercalcaemia. We discuss its pathophysiology and clinical importance, which can often present with severe hypercalcaemia that can respond precipitously to calcium-lowering therapy.

Learning points:

  • Milk-alkali syndrome is an often unrecognised cause for hypercalcaemia, but is the third most common cause of admission for hypercalcaemia.
  • Calcium ingestion leading to MAS can occur at intakes as low as 1.0–1.5 g per day in those with risk factors.
  • Early recognition of this syndrome can avoid the use of calcium-lowering therapy such as bisphosphonates which can precipitate hypocalcaemia.
Open access

Kirun Gunganah, Ashley Grossman and Maralyn Druce

Summary

A 22-year-old female student presented with a history of recurrent pancreatitis. The commonest causes of pancreatitis, including drugs, gallstones, corticosteroids, excess alcohol and hypertriglyceridaemia, were excluded. She was found to have an elevated serum calcium level that was considered to be the cause of her pancreatitis, with a detectable serum parathyroid hormone (PTH). An initial diagnosis of primary hyperparathyroidism was made. However, two neck explorations failed to reveal a parathyroid adenoma. She was referred to our unit three years later as her episodes of pancreatitis were becoming more frequent and her calcium level remained persistently elevated. Her investigations were as follows: elevated adjusted calcium level of 2.79 mmol/l (2.2–2.58), PTH level of 4.2 pmol/l (0.6–6.0), low 24 h urine calcium of 0.3 mmol/l and a urine calcium:creatinine ratio of <0.003. A clinical diagnosis of familial hypocalciuric hypercalcaemia (FHH) was made and confirmed on genetic testing that showed a c.1703 G>A mutation in the calcium-sensing receptor gene. Although the hypercalcaemia of FHH is usually without sequelae due to the generalised changes in calcium sensing, in the presence of this complication she was started on cinacalcet 30 mg daily. She had one further episode of pancreatitis with calcium levels ranging between 2.53 and 2.66 mmol/l. Her cinacalcet was gradually increased to 30 mg three times daily, maintaining her calcium levels in the range of 2.15–2.20 mmol/l. She has not had a further episode of pancreatitis for more than 2 years.

FHH is usually a benign condition with minimal complications from hypercalcaemia. Pancreatitis has been reported rarely, and no clear management strategy has been defined in these cases. Cinacalcet was successfully used in treating recurrent pancreatitis in a patient with FHH by maintaining calcium levels in the lower part of the reference range. Whether or not this is an effective long-term treatment remains yet to be seen.

Learning points

  • FHH is an important differential diagnosis for hypercalcaemia.
  • FHH can rarely cause pancreatitis.
  • No clear strategy is available to help in the management of patients with pancreatitis due to FHH.
  • Cinacalcet was effective in lowering serum calcium levels and reducing the frequency of pancreatitis in our patient with FHH.

Open access

Deep Dutta, Chitra Selvan, Manoj Kumar, Saumik Datta, Ram Narayan Das, Sujoy Ghosh, Satinath Mukhopadhyay and Subhankar Chowdhury

Summary

Parathyroid cysts are rare (0.8–3.41% of all parathyroid lesions) and usually arise secondary to cystic degeneration of parathyroid adenomas. Intrathyroidal parathyroid cysts are extremely rare with only three cases reported till date. We present a 24-year-old female with clinical and biochemical features of primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT; Ca2 +: 12.1 mg/dl; intact parathyroid hormone (iPTH): 1283 pg/ml) and poor radiotracer uptake with minimal residual uptake in the left thyroid lobe at 2 and 4 h on Tc99m sestamibi imaging. Neck ultrasonography (USG) revealed 0.6×1 cm parathyroid posterior left lobe of thyroid along with 22×18 mm simple thyroid cyst. USG-guided fine-needle aspiration (FNA) and needle tip iPTH estimation (FNA-iPTH) from parathyroid lesion was inconclusive (114 pg/ml), necessitating FNA of thyroid cyst, which revealed high iPTH (3480 pg/ml) from the aspirate. The patient underwent a left hemithyroidectomy. A >50% drop in serum iPTH 20 min after left hemithyroidectomy (29.4 pg/ml) along with histopathology suggestive of intrathyroidal cystic parathyroid adenoma (cystic lesion lined by chief cell variant parathyroid cells without any nuclear atypia, capsular or vascular invasion surrounded by normal thyroid follicles) confirmed that the parathyroid cyst was responsible for PHPT. This report highlights the importance of FNA-iPTH in localizing and differentiating a functional parathyroid lesion from nonfunctional tissue in PHPT.

Learning points

  • Fine-needle aspiration from suspected parathyroid lesion and needle tip iPTH (FNA-iPTH) estimation from the saline washing has an important role in localizing primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT).
  • FNA-iPTH estimation may help in differentiating functional from nonfunctional parathyroid lesion responsible for PHPT.
  • iPTH estimation from aspirate of an intrathyroid cyst is helpful in differentiating intrathyroidal parathyroid cyst from thyroid cyst.