• Endocrine;
  • Equine;
  • Mortality;
  • Neonate;
  • Sepsis

Background: Disorders of calcium regulation are frequently found in humans with critical illness, yet limited information exists in foals with similar conditions including septicemia. The purpose of this study was to determine whether disorders of calcium exist in septic foals, and to determine any association with survival.

Hypothesis: Blood concentrations of ionized calcium (Ca2+) and magnesium (Mg2+) will be lower in septic foals with concomitant increases in parathyroid hormone (PTH), calcitonin (CT), and parathyroid-related peptide (PTHrP) compared with healthy foals. The magnitude of these differences will be negatively associated with survival.

Animals: Eighty-two septic, 40 sick nonseptic, and 24 healthy foals of ≤7 days were included.

Methods: Prospective, observational study. Blood was collected at initial examination for analysis. Foals with positive blood culture or sepsis score ≥14 were considered septic. Foals with disease other than sepsis and healthy foals were used as controls. Hormone concentrations were measured with validated immunoassays.

Results: Septic foals had decreased Ca2+ (5.6 versus 6.1 mg/dL, P < .01) and increased serum PTH (16.2 versus 3.2 pmol/L, P < .05), and phosphorus concentrations (7.1 versus 6.3 mg/dL, P < .01). No differences in serum Mg2+, PTHrP, and CT concentrations were found. Nonsurviving septic foals (n = 42/82) had higher PTH concentrations (41.1 versus 10.7 pmol/L, P < .01) than survivors (n = 40/82).

Conclusions and Clinical Importance: Septic foals were more likely to have disorders of calcium regulation compared with healthy foals, where hyperparathyroidemia was associated with nonsurvival.