A previously well 70 year old woman was admitted to hospital following a three day history of vomiting and confusion. Her serum calcium was 6.58 mmol/l, phosphate 1.09 mmol/l, and alkaline phosphatase 91 iu/l. The mechanism of this hypercalcaemia was not obvious as there was no evidence of a primary malignancy, lymphadenopathy or hepatosplenomegaly. The calculation of indices of urinary excretion of calcium and phosphate suggested the presence of excessive parathyroid hormone (PTH) activity as the mechanism of hypercalcaemia. Plasma intact PTH, 25-hydroxycholecalciferol, and 1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol were not raised suggesting the presence of PTH related peptide (rP). This led to a systematic search for a malignancy, which revealed the presence of a high grade B cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma confined to the bone marrow. Plasma PTH-rP was subsequently shown to be raised confirming the interpretation of the initial urinary and calcium excretion indices. This case highlights the value of standard laboratory measurements such as urinary calcium and phosphate excretion in cases of hypercalcaemia of obscure aetiology, which can complement measurements of PTH and other calcitropic hormones.
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