How is hypercalcemia treated in patients with multiple myeloma (MM)?

Updated: May 11, 2021
  • Author: Dhaval Shah, MD; Chief Editor: Emmanuel C Besa, MD  more...
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Treatment for myeloma-induced hypercalcemia is the same as that for other malignancy-associated hypercalcemia; however, the dismal outcome observed with hypercalcemia in solid tumors is not observed in MM.

To treat pathologic fractures, physicians should orthopedically stabilize (ie, typically pin) and irradiate these lesions. Careful attention to a patient’s bony symptoms, intermittent radiographic surveys, and the use of bisphosphonates may be useful to prevent fractures. [47, 123, 124] (See Surgical Care and Bisphosphonate Therapy.)

Spinal cord compression is one of the most severe adverse effects of MM. The dysfunction may be reversible, depending on the duration of the cord compression; however, once established, the dysfunction is only rarely fully reversed. Patients who may have spinal cord compression need a rapid evaluation, which may necessitate urgent transfer to a center equipped with MRI for diagnosis or a center with a radiation oncologist for urgent therapy.

Patients with spinal cord compression due to MM should begin corticosteroid therapy immediately to reduce swelling. Urgent arrangements must be made for radiation therapy in order to restore or stabilize neurologic function. Surgery may be indicated. (See Surgical Care.)

Erythropoietin may ameliorate anemia resulting from either MM alone or from chemotherapy and has been shown to improve quality of life. [125] A systematic review failed to demonstrate a survival advantage for the use of erythropoietin agents in the treatment of patients with cancer-related anemia. [126]

Acute renal impairment related to MM is typically managed with plasmapheresis to rapidly lower circulating abnormal proteins. Data about this approach are limited, but a small randomized study showed a survival advantage with the use of apheresis. [14] Hydration (to maintain a urine output of >3 L/d), management of hypercalcemia, and avoidance of nephrotoxins (eg, intravenous contrast media, antibiotics) are also key factors. Conventional therapy may take weeks to months to show a benefit.

Renal impairment resulting from MM is associated with a very poor prognosis. A case series demonstrated that patients with renal failure from myeloma may benefit from autologous stem cell transplants, and as many as one third may demonstrate improvement in their renal function with this approach. [127] A report by Ludwig et suggests that bortezomib-based therapy may restore renal function in MM patients with renal failure. [13]

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