EUH Morning Report: Should lasix (furosemide) be considered in the setting of hypercalcemia?

The Bottom Line: Avoid loop diuretics in the setting of acute hypercalcemia, except it may be considered for patients with concomitant volume overload.

DynaMed Plus provides the following information on loop diuretics:

  • inhibits calcium resorption in distal renal tubule
  • may worsen volume depletion and electrolyte derangements and should be used with caution
  • no evidence to support use in acute hypercalcemia
    • may be used to control volume overload
    • associated with hypokalemia and possibly contributes to dehydration

References: DynaMed Plus [Internet]. Ipswich (MA): EBSCO Information Services. 1995 – . Record No. 116018, Hypercalcemia; [updated 2016 Dec 27, cited 2018 Jul 19]; [about 10 screens]. Emory login required.

LeGrand SB, Leskuski D, Zama I. Narrative review: furosemide for hypercalcemia: an unproven yet common practice. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2008;149(4):259-263.

Summary: The following is a review of LeGrand et al’s 2008 article (NEJM Journal Watch):

A literature review found little support for the use of the diuretic furosemide to treat hypercalcemia.

Many textbooks recommend saline and furosemide as first-line management for hypercalcemia. Investigators searched the literature since 1950 for studies of furosemide or bisphosphonate use for hypercalcemia in people.

They identified nine reports — the most recent from 1983 — involving 37 patients treated with furosemide for hypercalcemia; doses ranged from 240 mg to 2400 mg. Calcium normalized in 14 of 39 episodes, and within 12 hours in only two cases. Intensive monitoring was accompanied by replacement of fluid and electrolyte losses. Complications included hypernatremia, coma, metabolic acidosis, hypophosphatemia and hypomagnesemia, altered mental status, and tetany.

Investigators identified 56 clinical studies of bisphosphonates — 34 were randomized and included more than 1000 patients. In a systematic review of 26 studies of bisphosphonate use in hypercalcemia of cancer, calcium levels normalized in more than 70% of patients. The authors conclude that volume repletion and bisphosphonate therapy should be the standard management strategy for hypercalcemia, with furosemide used only for managing fluid overload.


Forced saline diuresis for hypercalcemia is a long-standing practice that persists, even in authoritative texts, despite the absence of evidence for its efficacy, the existence of known risks, and the availability of other proven treatments. Saline and bisphosphonates, with or without calcitonin, are the standard of care for hypercalcemia.

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