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Anesthesiology. 1975 Sep;43(3):300-6.

Low plasma ionized calcium and response to calcium therapy in critically ill man.


Marked lowering of plasma ionized calcium concentrations [Ca++] occurred in eight patients (2 days to 54 years old) who required extensive pharmacologic support of the circulation. [Ca++]'s ranged from 0.21 to 0.53 mM. Only one patient survived. The hypocalcemia occurred in the absence of massive transfusion of citrated whole blood or well after such transfusions had been discontinued. These abnormally low concentrations of ionized calcium were not readily corrected by intravenous administration of calcium salts in doses generally recommended. The process responsible for inadequate hemodynamic function appeared to be associated with a severe disturbance in calcium metabolism. Contribution of the latter to the severity of hemodynamic deterioration is unclear, and little benefit from intravenous calcium therapy was found. In two patients, normal [Ca++] could not be restored by administration of CaCl2 alone, but [Ca++] rose to normal following continued calcium replacement therapy in conjunction with increased isoproterenol infusion. There was no predictable relationship between total and ionized plasma calcium concentrations. Thus, measurement of total calcium provided no indication of the level of the biologically active moiety. [Ca++] was low with both normal and low plasma pH values. The data suggest that a very high infusion rate of CaCl2 may required to restore [Ca++] to normal and that hypocalcemia occurring during low-flow states often cannot be corrected by calcium therapy alone. It is recommended that calcium replacement therapy be undertaken only with close monitoring of [Ca++].

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