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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1989 Mar;68(3):654-60.

Lithium treatment increases intact and midregion parathyroid hormone and parathyroid volume.

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Section of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Veterans Administration Medical Center, Houston, Texas 77030.


Lithium carbonate is known to alter calcium metabolism by lowering urinary calcium excretion and increasing serum calcium concentrations. Several investigators have reported increases in serum immunoreactive PTH (iPTH) values after a few weeks or months of lithium treatment, and several cases of primary hyperparathyroidism developing during lithium treatment have been reported. To determine whether the increases in serum iPTH might be the result of increased renal retention of inactive PTH fragments rather than stimulation of parathyroid function, we measured plasma intact PTH by immunoradiometric assay and estimated parathyroid size by ultrasonography in men who had received short term (less than 6 months) or long term (greater than 3 yr) lithium treatment and in normal subjects. Serum ionized calcium was higher by 0.03-0.04 mmol/L in subjects treated short term (mean, 1.7 months) with lithium than in normal subjects, but plasma intact PTH and serum midregion iPTH values were not different. The absence of a reciprocal decrease in PTH values is compatible with a lithium-induced shift in the set-point for the inhibition of PTH secretion by calcium toward a higher calcium value. Both plasma intact PTH and serum midregion PTH values were higher in subjects during longer term (mean, 103 months) lithium treatment, and estimated parathyroid volume was 3-fold higher. Serum phosphate was lower, and serum chloride and plasma 1,25-dihydroxy-vitamin D values were higher in those treated with lithium long term, probably from the biological action of the increased PTH. We conclude that long term lithium treatment increases circulating biologically active PTH and causes parathyroid enlargement. Whether this chronic stimulus to parathyroid growth might lead to adenoma formation in certain susceptible individuals and whether a PTH-induced increase in skeletal remodelling occurs that might hasten the appearance of osteopenia remain to be determined.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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