1. Seventy-seven calcium balance and 47Ca turnover studies were performed in normal volunteers (n = 15) and in patients with osteoporosis (n = 12), primary hyperparathyroidism (n = 8), osteogenesis imperfecta (n = 5), medullary carcinoma of the thyroid (n = 4), thyrotoxicosis (n = 2) and intestinal bypass for obesity (n = 11).

2. After intravenous injection of 20 μCi of 47Ca two retention curves of 47Ca were obtained: R1(t) directly measured on a whole-body counter and R2(t) calculated from the cumulated daily excretions of 47Ca in urine and faeces. The data were fitted to a modification of the continuously expanding exchangeable calcium pool model.

3. Dermal calcium loss was estimated from the serum 47Ca specific radioactivity curve and the constantly increasing difference between the two retention curves. The median dermal calcium loss in 77 studies was 1.50 mmol 24 h−1 1.73 m−2 (range 0.13-4.60).

4. The dermal calcium loss might be overestimated by redistribution of tracer or by eventual insufficient collection of urine and faeces. The possible influences of these errors have been evaluated.

5. Patients with primary hyperparathyroidism had a greater (P < 0.02) dermal calcium loss (2.64 mmol; range 0.80–4.50) than a control group (1.38 mmol; range 1.25–2.34).

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