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Causes of hypophosphatemia

Alan S L Yu, MB, BChir
Jason R Stubbs, MD
Section Editor
Stanley Goldfarb, MD
Deputy Editor
Albert Q Lam, MD


The reported prevalence of hypophosphatemia varies widely, depending upon the patient population surveyed and the concentration of serum phosphorus used to define hypophosphatemia. Up to 5 percent of hospitalized patients may have low serum phosphate concentrations (less than 2.5 mg/dL [0.80 mmol/L]), although prevalences of over 30 to 50 percent have been reported in alcoholic patients and patients with severe sepsis or trauma [1-3]. Profound hypophosphatemia (less than 1 mg/dL [0.32 mmol/L]), which can lead to physiological disturbances and symptoms, is much less common [3-5]. (See "Signs and symptoms of hypophosphatemia".)

There are four major mechanisms by which hypophosphatemia can occur (table 1):

Redistribution of phosphate from the extracellular fluid into cells

Decreased intestinal absorption of phosphate

Increased urinary phosphate excretion

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Literature review current through: Oct 2017. | This topic last updated: Apr 13, 2016.
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