Milk-Alkali Syndrome

Milk-Alkali Syndrome is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Clinical Consult.

To view the entire topic, please or purchase a subscription.

Medicine Central™ is a quick-consult mobile and web resource that includes diagnosis, treatment, medications, and follow-up information on over 700 diseases and disorders, providing fast answers—anytime, anywhere. Explore these free sample topics:

Medicine Central

-- The first section of this topic is shown below --



  • Milk-alkali syndrome results from ingestion of excessive amounts of calcium and absorbable alkali (e.g., bicarbonate and citrate salts).
  • Historically seen during self-treatment for indigestion or “heartburn”
  • Also seen with treatment/prevention of postmenopausal osteoporosis, consumption of carbonated beverages and calcium salts
  • Characterized by the following:
    • Hypercalcemia
    • Metabolic alkalosis
      • ± Renal insufficiency
  • System(s) affected: endocrine/metabolic; gastrointestinal; renal/urologic
  • Synonym(s): Burnett syndrome; Cope syndrome; milk poisoning; milk drinker syndrome; calcium-alkali syndrome


  • Third most common cause of hypercalcemia
  • Recent increase associated with treatment for prevention of osteoporosis

Infrequent in the outpatient setting but 9–12% among hospitalized patients who have hypercalcemia

General Prevention

  • Avoid excess milk and/or absorbable antacids.
  • Use noncarbonate salts for calcium supplementation.

Etiology and Pathophysiology

  • Cyclic process between intestines and kidneys: hypercalcemia from high-calcium intake (usually >4 g/day) coupled with increased renal calcium reabsorption due to metabolic alkalosis (by sensitizing calcium-sensing receptor in the kidney)
  • Hypercalcemia leads to suppression of parathyroid hormone–reduced urinary calcium excretion (by inducing volume depletion). An increase in the reabsorption of bicarbonate also maintains the metabolic alkalosis.

Risk Factors

  • Use of calcium-containing antacids or supplements
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Simultaneous vitamin D supplementation
  • Thiazide diuretic therapy
  • Pregnancy (increased GI calcium absorption)
  • Elderly
  • Postmenopausal woman
  • More common in women than men

Commonly Associated Conditions

  • Peptic ulcer disease
  • Gastroesophageal reflux
  • Hiatal hernia
  • Osteoporosis
  • Hypertension
  • Hyperparathyroidism
  • Hypercalcemia of malignancy

-- To view the remaining sections of this topic, please or purchase a subscription --


* When formatting your citation, note that all book, journal, and database titles should be italicized* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - ELEC T1 - Milk-Alkali Syndrome ID - 116384 ED - Baldor,Robert A, ED - Domino,Frank J, ED - Golding,Jeremy, ED - Stephens,Mark B, BT - 5-Minute Clinical Consult, Updating UR - PB - Wolters Kluwer ET - 27 DB - Medicine Central DP - Unbound Medicine ER -