Assessment of calcium homeostasis in the critically ill surgical patient. The diagnostic pitfalls of the McLean-Hastings nomogram

G P Zaloga, B Chernow, D Cook, R Snyder, M Clapper, J T O'Brian
Annals of Surgery 1985, 202 (5): 587-94
Hypocalcemia is a common problem in critically ill surgical patients. We prospectively evaluated whether measurement of the total serum calcium (Ca) concentration or calculation of the serum ionized Ca level (by the McLean-Hastings nomogram) accurately reflects the measured serum ionized Ca level. Although 71% and 58% of 156 predominantly surgical intensive care unit (ICU) patients were hypocalcemic by the total serum Ca or calculated ionized Ca level, respectively, only 12% were hypocalcemic by directly measured serum ionized Ca measurement. The total serum Ca and calculated ionized Ca concentrations were sensitive (95% and 89%, respectively) but lacked specificity (32% and 46%, respectively) in predicting ionized hypocalcemia. Analyses of Ca binding to albumin in the serum of surgical ICU patients and normal subjects suggested that there is a circulating factor in critically ill patients that increases the binding of Ca to albumin. These observations may explain why the McLean-Hastings nomogram underestimates the protein-induced changes in serum Ca in critically ill surgical subjects. We conclude that: total serum Ca and calculated ionized Ca concentrations are poor indicators of the true serum ionized Ca status in critically ill surgical patients, and we recommend direct measurement of serum ionized Ca levels in these patients; and variability in the affinity of Ca for binding proteins in critical illness may explain the poor correlation between serum total and ionized Ca measurements.

Full Text Links

Find Full Text Links for this Article


You are not logged in. Sign Up or Log In to join the discussion.

Trending Papers

Remove bar
Read by QxMD icon Read

Save your favorite articles in one place with a free QxMD account.


Search Tips

Use Boolean operators: AND/OR

diabetic AND foot
diabetes OR diabetic

Exclude a word using the 'minus' sign

Virchow -triad

Use Parentheses

water AND (cup OR glass)

Add an asterisk (*) at end of a word to include word stems

Neuro* will search for Neurology, Neuroscientist, Neurological, and so on

Use quotes to search for an exact phrase

"primary prevention of cancer"
(heart or cardiac or cardio*) AND arrest -"American Heart Association"