Context: Neonatal severe hyperparathyroidism (NSHPT) is a rare and life-threatening emergency. It includes generalized hyperparathyroid bone disease and respiratory distress from combinations among a narrowed thorax, rib fractures, hypotonia, and biochemical disturbances. Successful therapy is compatible with long life and a healthy prognosis. However, neuromotor retardation may persist after otherwise successful therapy. The time and amplitude of hypercalcemia likely correlate with irreversible neuromotor retardation; thus, early intervention seems critical in many cases. NSHPT is usually caused by homozygous or heterozygous pathogenic variant(s) of the CASR; a heterozygous variant of this gene is also the usual cause of familial hypocalciuric hypercalcemia (FHH or FHH1). Homozygotes and heterozygotes with NSHPT are often not distinguished in the current literature. In theory, their management should differ. Optimum treatment in homozygotes is early total parathyroidectomy with induction of postoperative hypoparathyroidism. Optimal management of heterozygotes is more complex. It consists in temporizing measures and varies from careful observation without surgery, to bisphosphonates and/or calcimimetics, and to subtotal parathyroidectomy. The heterozygotes can then develop into healthy babies with asymptomatic FHH1.
Evidence Acquisition: Each case met strict criteria for “severe” and neonatal disease. We analyzed the core biochemical parameters of the maximal serum calcium and maximal PTH. To compare different immunoassays, PTH was analyzed as a ratio (thus without units) of the raw data divided by the upper limit of its normal range. Each case also required information about the allelic dosage of the pathogenic or likely pathogenic CASR variant(s).
Evidence Synthesis: There were 36 cases with homozygous pathogenic CASR variants and 21 cases with heterozygous pathogenic or likely pathogenic variants. Maximal serum calcium was far higher in homozygotes 5.8 +/- 1.5 versus 3.2 +/- 0.2 (P<.001) (normal 2.2–2.6 mM). Maximal serum PTH as a ratio was also far higher in homozygotes 17 +/- 12 versus 8 +/- 9 (P=.003) (normal ratio 0.3–1.0). We defined extreme hypercalcemia empirically as any calcium value above 4.5 mM. No heterozygote had a maximal calcium above 3.7 mM; however, 30 of 36 (81%) of the homozygotes had maximal calcium above 4.5 mM. Whenever tested early, this extreme hypercalcemia was usually recognized in the first week of life.
Conclusions: Extreme hypercalcemia greater than 4.5 mM was newly identified as a conservative cutoff that was 100% predictive of homozygosity for pathogenic CASR variants. Extreme hypercalcemia in NSHPT is an early, facile, rapid, and inexpensive determinant of homozygosity for pathogenic variants of the CASR. It should be sought and used to promote early and definitive total parathyroidectomy, whenever it is identified in NSHPT.