Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Simple test of intestinal calcium absorption measured by stable strontium.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987; 295 doi: (Published 25 July 1987) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987;295:231
  1. S Milsom,
  2. K Ibbertson,
  3. S Hannan,
  4. D Shaw,
  5. J Pybus
  1. Department of Medicine, Auckland Hospital, New Zealand.


    A clinical test of intestinal calcium absorption has been developed using non-radioactive stable strontium as a calcium tracer. In nine elderly subjects there was a close correlation between the fractional absorption of strontium and radioactive calcium (45Ca) during a five hour period after the simultaneous oral administration of the two tracers. Comparable precision was achieved with each tracer in six subjects in whom the test was repeated after two weeks. The effect of food on strontium absorption was examined in a further 33 normal subjects (age 21-60 years), and the administration of the strontium with a standard breakfast was shown to reduce the variance at individual time points. A simplified test in which serum strontium concentration was measured four hours after the oral dose given with a standard breakfast was adopted as the routine procedure. The normal range (mean (2 SD], established over 97 tests in 53 patients, was 7.0-18.0% of the dose in the extracellular fluid. A further 30 patients with possible disorders of calcium absorption (10 with primary hyperparathyroidism and 20 with coeliac disease) were studied by this standard test. In both groups of patients the mean four hour strontium values were significantly different from normal. This standard strontium absorption test allows assessment of calcium absorption with sufficient sensitivity and precision to have a wide application in clinical practice.