Med/Psych Update

Lithium-associated hypercalcemia: Monitoring and management

Author and Disclosure Information



Treatment: Continue lithium?

There are several options for treating LAH. Lithium may be continued or discontinued following close monitoring of calcium and PTH levels, with or without active interventions such as surgery or pharmacotherapy, and as deemed appropriate after consultation with an endocrinologist. The decision should be informed by evaluating the risks and benefits to the patient’s physical and mental health. LAH can be reversed by discontinuing lithium, but this might not be the case in patients receiving long-term lithium therapy, especially if their elevated calcium levels are associated with parathyroid adenomas or hyperplasia. Hence, close monitoring of calcium and PTH is required even after discontinuing lithium.3,8

Surgical treatment. The primary treatment of LAH and primary hyperparathyroidism is parathyroidectomy. The possibility of recovery after parathyroidectomy for primary hyperparathyroidism is 60% to 80%, though a small proportion of patients might experience recurrence. This figure might be higher for LAH, because it is more likely to affect multiple glands.1,11 Other potential complications of parathyroidectomy are recurrent laryngeal nerve injury causing paralysis of vocal cords leading to hoarseness of voice, stridor, or aspiration, and local hematoma and hypocalcemia (requiring vitamin D and/or calcium supplements).12

Pharmacotherapy. Cinacalcet is a calcimimetic drug that decreases the reset point of the calcium-sensing receptor. It can be used if a patient is not suitable for or apprehensive about surgical intervention.1,8

Bottom Line

Calcium levels should be regularly monitored in patients receiving lithium. If calcium levels are persistently high, parathyroid hormone levels should also be measured. Management of lithium-associated hypercalcemia includes watchful waiting, discontinuing lithium, parathyroidectomy, and pharmacotherapy with cinacalcet.

Related Resources

Drug Brand Names

Cinacalcet • Sensipar


Recommended Reading

‘Disturbing’ lack of follow-up care after psychiatric crises
MDedge Psychiatry
Bipolar risk and parental age: What’s the relationship?
MDedge Psychiatry
Lamotrigine for bipolar depression?
MDedge Psychiatry
Machine learning identifies childhood characteristics that predict bipolar disorder
MDedge Psychiatry
Long-term behavioral follow-up of children exposed to mood stabilizers and antidepressants: A look forward
MDedge Psychiatry