Lithium is well recognized as the first-line maintenance treatment for bipolar disorder (BD). However, besides therapeutic benefits attributed to lithium therapy, the associated side effects including endocrinological and renal disorders constitute important parameters in prescribing patterns and patient adherence. The objectives of this study is to (i) determine whether long-term lithium therapy is associated with a decrease in renal function, hyperparathyroidism and hypercalcemia and (ii) identify risk factors for lithium-induced chronic kidney disease (CKD).
We conducted a single-centered cohort study of adult patients (≥ 18 years) treated with lithium, who were enrolled at Rennes University Hospital in France between January 1, 2018 and June 1, 2020. Required data were collected from the patient’s medical records: demographics characteristics (age, sex, body mass index), biologic parameters (GFR, lithium blood level, PTH and calcium), medical comorbidities (hypertension and diabetes), lithium treatment duration and dosage, and length of hospitalization.
A total of 248 patients were included (mean age: 60.2 ± 16.5 years). Duration of lithium treatment correlated with (i) deterioration of renal function estimated at – 2.9 mL/min/year (p < 0.0001) and (ii) the development of hyperparathyroidism (p < 0.01) and hypercalcemia (p  0.8 mEq/mL had significantly lower GFR than patients with lithium blood level < 0.8 mEq/mL (61.8 mL/min versus 77.6 mL/min, respectively, p = 0.0134). Neither diabetes mellitus nor hypertension was associated with more rapid deterioration of renal function.
This study suggests that the duration of lithium treatment contribute to the deterioration of renal function, raising the question of reducing dosages in patients with a GFR < 60 mL/min. Overdoses has been identified as a risk factor for CKD, emphasizing the importance of regular re-evaluation of the lithium dose regimen. Also, long-term lithium therapy was associated with hyperparathyroidism and hypercalcemia. Particular vigilance is required on these points in order to limit the occurrence of endocrinological and renal lithium adverse effects.

© 2023. The Author(s).