What is the role of sodium and phosphorus measurement in the diagnosis of nephrolithiasis?

Updated: Sep 16, 2021
  • Author: Chirag N Dave, MD; Chief Editor: Bradley Fields Schwartz, DO, FACS  more...
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Excess sodium excretion can contribute to hypercalciuria by a phenomenon known as solute drag. Elevated urinary sodium levels are almost always associated with dietary indiscretions. Decreasing the oral sodium intake can decrease calcium excretion, thereby decreasing calcium saturation.

An elevated phosphorus level is useful as a marker for a subtype of absorptive hypercalciuria known as renal phosphate leak (absorptive hypercalciuria type III). Renal phosphate leak is identified by high urinary phosphate levels, low serum phosphate levels, high serum 1,25 vitamin D-3 (calcitriol) levels, and hypercalciuria. This type of hypercalciuria is uncommon and does not respond well to standard therapies.

The above laboratory tests are confirmatory but are performed only if the index of clinical suspicion is high. Any patient with hypercalciuria who has a low serum phosphorus level and a high-normal or high urinary phosphorus level may have this condition. Repeat laboratories along with a 1,25 vitamin D-3 level are confirmatory.

Phosphate supplements are used to correct the low serum phosphate level, which then decreases the inappropriate activation of vitamin D originally caused by the hypophosphatemia. This corrects the hypercalciuria, which is ultimately a vitamin D–dependent function in this condition. This therapy is not well tolerated, however.

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