There has been doubt as to whether elevated levels of parathyroid hormone, reported previously by radioimmunoassay, reflect increased concentrations of the biologically active hormone. The application of a recently developed, highly sensitive bioassay has shown considerable disparity between bioactivity and immunoreactivity in 5 rheumatic conditions and in normal subjects. Six patients with chondrocalcinosis had elevated levels; 3 of these did not have hypercalcaemia or any obvious cause other than possible subclinical hyperparathyroidism. One patient, assayed during an acute episode, had an elevated concentration of the hormone which reverted to normal when she was asymptomatic. Most patients with osteoarthrosis (13 our of 15) had low normal levels; 2 showed unexplained slightly elevated concentrations. Of 6 patients with haemochromatosis 3 had elevated levels, though this may have been related to the associated presence of diabetes mellitus. A third of patients with ankylosing spondylitis (10 out of 30) showed elevated parathyroid hormone levels but without hypercalcaemia. A number of spondylitic patients also showed anomalous results in this assay, possibly due to the presence of an antagonist. This would be consistent with the absence of clinical or biochemical evidence of hyperparathyroidism.
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